By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
Bowel movements problems
Bowel movement problems can reveal how well a person’s digestive system is working. Color, consistency and frequency are some of the indicative signs that differentiate between normal and abnormal bowel movements.
The most common problem related to one’s bowels is constipation.
Constipated stools are dry and hard, making them difficult to pass. It happens when the colon absorbs too much water from fecal matter. It can also occur when intestinal contractions are too slow or sluggish to push stool forward.
Before we move on to some natural remedies for constipation problems, we need to understand the factors leading to constipation.
There are a few factors that can cause bowel movement problems. Fortunately, most of them aren’t too difficult to deal with.
When we don’t get enough fiber in our diets it can cause constipation problems. Fiber adds bulk to stool, which helps to stimulate peristalsis.
Fiber helps to hold moisture in stool, thereby making it soft and easy to pass.
The American diet contains a lot that promotes constipation.
These foods contain very little fiber. Moreover, processed foods contain a lot of sugar, salt and saturated fats that are difficult for the body to digest.
These foods also contain additives and preservatives that can contribute to constipation.
Animal fats, including those in dairy products and eggs can also negatively affect the bowels. In children, cow’s milk is one of the causes of constipation because it is difficult to digest.
Drinking enough water helps to keep the body hydrated, which is important for maintaining soft and moist stool.
When the body is dehydrated, it will compensate by absorbing additional moisture from fecal matter. This makes stools dry and hard, and difficult to pass.
Magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining bowel movements. However, most of us don’t get nearly enough magnesium in our diet, which can lead to constipation.
A common cause of chronic constipation is not responding when you feel the urge to defecate. It may be some time before that urge comes again.
In the mean time, the colon continues to extract water from stool, which can result in dry, hard, impacted stool that is difficult to pass.
A 9 to 5 desk job could be one of the reasons for bowel health problems. Studies have proven that a lack of physical activity can contribute to constipation.
We all know that physical activity is important for our overall health, but may not have considered its importance for keeping our bowels moving.
Our bodies rely on exercise for various functions, like improving metabolic rate and stimulating intestinal mucosa to produce mucus, which in turn lubricates the fecal matter.
Traveling tends to change our lifestyle.
It may mean:
All of these factors can have a negative effect on bowel movements, resulting in constipation.
There are certain medications that can affect the peristaltic activity of the intestines.
The wavelike contractions of the colon are less intense, meaning that fecal matter spends longer in the colon.
These medications include:
Iron tablets and multivitamins containing calcium and iron can also have a negative effect on the digestive system, including flatulence, bloating and constipation.
One out of every two pregnant women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. There are various factors that contribute to constipation during pregnancy.
This may include:
Similarly, bowel movements may be affected by PMS, due to fluctuations in feminine hormones.
Certain medical conditions may cause constipation. These may include:
Inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may also affect the normalcy of stools.
Irritable bowel disease may also be characterized by alternate phases of constipation and diarrhea, along with other symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating and excessive gas.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone, which in turn may affect the metabolic rate and bowel health.
It may slow down intestinal contractions, leading to constipation.
A stroke may lead to nerve damage. Nerve damage may hinder the stimulation of contractions of the intestines.
There are numerous natural solutions that can provide long term relief for constipation problems. You may have already found out that conventional medications are for temporary relief.
For many, until the following natural remedies are incorporated into one’s lifestyle, they will never be free from bowel movement problems.
Half of the above digestive problems are cured immediately once lifestyle changes are incorporated.
Eating the right foods is the best natural cure for constipation.
Include plenty of foods that are high in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts.
To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water. When one is dehydrated, their body soaks up any available moisture from waste matter in the intestines, resulting in hard, dry stool.
So drink lots of water, vegetable and fruit juices and clear vegetable soups to prevent dehydration.
Reduce your intake of dairy products, and refined and processed foods. Cook meals prepared from fresh, natural ingredients.
Exercise is not just important for a healthy heart, but also for good digestive health. Physical activity helps with the movement of waste through the colon.
When waste matter isn’t in the colon as long, less water is absorbed from waste material in colon.
Did you know that taking a magnesium supplement might just help you live a healthier life?
It's true, since most of us don’t get enough magnesium in our diets.
Magnesium is also a great tool for promoting regularity. Just a teaspoon a day of a magnesium supplement may be enough to kiss most of your constipation issues goodbye.
Magnesium pulls extra water into the colon, which helps to keep stool moist, soft and easy to eliminate.
For severe, acute constipation, at times a laxative may be needed to provide immediate, short term relief.
We have a variety of laxatives to choose from. Take a look at the following to help you decide which might be the best fit for you.
Lubricant laxatives work by lubricating the intestinal passage. This helps waste matter to move more freely through the colon.
Lubricant laxatives like mineral oil should not be used for a long duration, as they can negatively affect the absorption and assimilation of vitamins and minerals in the digestive tract.
In long run, taking a lubricant laxative may result in nutritional deficiencies.
As the name suggests, stimulant laxatives stimulate the contractions of the intestines, which in turn helps to push along waste matter.
Although stimulant laxatives provide quick relief from constipation, they should not be used for a long duration, since over time they can reduce the colon’s ability to contract on its own.
Emollient laxatives are stool softeners that work by making stool softer and easier to eliminate. They also work by coating stool with a water resistant coating.
This helps to keep water from being absorbed from the stool and also facilitates the passage of stool through the colon.
Dry, hard stools are difficult to pass and can result in constipation. This type of laxative works by drawing water into stools, making them moist and soft.
These are often only considered when other laxatives do not provide effective results. When they are used too often, enemas and suppositories can cause metabolic disturbances.
Healthy and regular bowel movements are a sign that our bodies are functioning normally. Most of the time, bowel movement problems are caused by a poor diet or sedate lifestyle.
Therefore, to cure constipation and other bowel movement problems, the best place to start is by making a few changes in diet and lifestyle. For quick, short term relief, a laxative may be needed.
(Return from Bowel Movement Problems to What is Constipation)