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Chronic Constipation: Facts vs. Myths

Learn how to relieve chronic constipation.
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6 Keys to Relieving Chronic Constipation continued...

Don't ignore the urge to go. Peristalsis of the bowel -- the movements that trigger a bowel movement -- come and go. If you ignore this urge, you may lose the opportunity. The longer stool stays in the bowel, the harder it gets as more water is reabsorbed, and the more difficult it is to expel. The urge to defecate also increases after mealtime, so take advantage of your body's signals.

3. Relax
Because stress can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, including the bowels, it's important to use some type of relaxation technique daily. Satish Rao, MD, PhD, FRCP, professor of medicine and director of neurogastroenterology and GI motility at the University of Iowa, finds that many patients cannot push properly because they are too rushed and stressed. "They have too little time to take care of their bodies," says Rao.

4. Increase Fluids

Drink plenty of liquids. It's recommended that you drink at least eight glasses of liquid (preferably water) each day. Drink more on hot days and when you are exercising.

5. Bulk Up Your Diet

Dietary fiber and bulk fiber laxatives such as psyllium or methylcelluose -- taken with plenty of fluids -- work well for relieving chronic constipation. Harris H. McIlwain, a Tampa-based rheumatologist and author of the new book A Diet for a Pain-Free Life, believes that wheat bran is the most effective fiber in relieving chronic constipation. "Wheat bran adds bulk to the stool and increases the rate of movement of the stool through the bowel," says McIlwain.

6. Talk to Your Doctor About Medications

Medications and laxatives can help relieve constipation, but they must be taken carefully and for short periods of time. Consult with your doctor before taking any medication.

Chronic Constipation: More Prevalent Today?

Are Americans becoming increasingly constipated? Rao says there's simply more awareness of constipation today.

"In the past, people who suffered with chronic constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or even incontinence, kept it to themselves. They stayed at home much of the time and tolerated the uncomfortable symptoms," Rao tells WebMD. "Today's baby boomers are unwilling to accept problems like chronic constipation. They know that medical advances are excellent and these health issues can be successfully treated and resolved."

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