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The Constipation Question

We commonly link nutrition primarily to weight loss. But the food we eat influences many chronic diseases and conditions, not just weight loss. A diet low in fiber and water often causes constipation. So, to treat and prevent constipation, we must follow a well-balanced diet.

Some people think they should have a bowel movement every day. However, there is no set requirement on how often people should have a bowel movement. Each individual has to figure out what is normal for him or her. Your normal number depends on the foods you eat, how much you exercise, and how many ounces of water you drink in a day.

Constipation means that a person has 3 bowel movements or less in a week. The hard, dry stool sometimes causes pain when it passes. When soft stool easily passes out of the body, your bowels do not have to strain. Almost everyone gets constipated from time to time. In most cases, constipation lasts for a short period of time and causes no harm. But, when you understand what causes constipation and how to prevent it, you can avoid not only the pain but also the development of hemorrhoids (a painful swelling of the veins near the anus).

With a diet rich in fiber, you may prevent diseases like diverticulosis and rectal and colon cancer. About 25 years ago, scientists observed that these cancers occurred more in Western countries where people eat less fiber. Today, research shows that a diet rich in fiber can prevent colorectal cancer. However, it’s not clear why.

What can I do?

Changing your eating and exercise habits will help you relieve and prevent constipation. Both soluble and insoluble fibers play an important role in treating constipation since the absorption of both increases the volume as well as the softness of feces. You can get fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains. Add fiber a little at a time, so your body can adjust to it slowly. Limit foods that have little or no fiber like ice cream, cheese, meat, chips, pizza, and processed foods such as frozen dinners. Drink plenty of fluids. Liquids help keep the stool soft and easy to pass. Don’t drink liquids with caffeine or alcohol. They tend to dry out your system.

Pay attention to your body

Often we’re so rushed that we don’t pay attention to our body’s needs. Never ignore or delay the urge to have a bowel movement.
In most cases, following these simple tips will help you control or prevent constipation:
· Eat a variety of foods including a lot of beans, bran, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
· Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
· Exercise regularly.
· Understand that each individual has different bowel habits.
· Check with your doctor if your bowel movements change.
· Use laxatives only if a doctor says you should.



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