Chronic constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal ailments in the U.S. While millions of Americans self-medicate by using over-the-counter laxatives, perhaps the simplest ways to manage chronic constipation is to drink plenty of fluids daily, eat dietary fiber, and exercise. Below are the answers to some common questions about chronic constipation, and how fluids can help or worsen the condition.
Fiber is the edible parts of plants that can't be digested. It adds bulk to stool and passes quickly through your intestine, helping prevent constipation.
For smoother digestion, try to add more high-fiber foods, such as:
Start slowly. As you gradually add fiber to your diet, also increase the amount of water you drink. This can help you avoid cramping or gas.
If cereals or grains bring on symptoms such as bloating, try fruits and vegetables instead.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Water and other fluids such as soup, broth, and juice can also help make your digestion run smoothly.
Water softens stool and encourages passage of waste. It works together with fiber, which absorbs it and helps prevent constipation.
To get more water, drink a glass with every meal. Try to drink 8 glasses a day.
But remember, some drinks are healthier than others. To help prevent digestive problems, go easy on caffeine. Along with alcohol, too much caffeine can cause diarrhea by stimulating your intestines. And, coffee, tea, and fizzy drinks can increase stomach acid, leading to heartburn in some people.
Eat smaller amounts more slowly. Chew your food thoroughly. That way you make your digestive system's job a little easier.
4. Get Regular Exercise
Lack of activity can contribute to constipation. Gradually ramp up your level of exercise for smoother digestion.
For some people, exercise right after a meal can cause indigestion. So try to schedule workouts before meals or wait at least an hour after eating.
5. Eat Probiotics
These "good" bacteria occur naturally in your digestive system. It’s possible that yogurt with live cultures can help your digestion. You can also add them to your diet through supplements.
6. Cut Down on High-Fat Foods
Fats tend to stay in your system the longest, making them harder to digest. You may have even noticed that feeling of fullness or burning after a meal high in fats.
Avoid fatty foods such as chips, burgers, and greasy foods. Instead, eat lean meat and fish. Also, try grilling foods more often than frying.
7. Spot Triggers for an Upset Stomach
Pay attention to foods that seem to trigger stomach discomfort. It may help to use a food diary to keep track of what you eat.
Some people find that acidic foods trigger heartburn. Examples include tomatoes or citrus fruits.
For others, wheat, onion, or dairy products such as milk or cheese cause problems with digestion.
Spicy food is a common trigger of heartburn, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Go easy on or avoid foods that trigger these kinds of symptoms.
Smoking is yet another trigger for digestive symptoms. Add it to your list of reasons to quit.
8. Talk to Your Doctor
Medications or medical problems can interfere with smooth digestion. If you've ruled out other problems but still have symptoms, bring a list of your medications to your doctor. This might help spot the source of the problem.
9. Control Stress
You probably know what a huge impact stress has on your whole body. And your digestive system is no exception.
For smoother digestion, do what you can to keep your stress under control.