Five Ways to Prevent Constipation

Nearly everyone experiences constipation at some point in their lives. Constipation has a wide variety of causes and can come on suddenly or creep up gradually. There’s no need to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk to your doctor about constipation. And you need to talk about it, because if constipation is left untreated it can cause health complications.

The skilled gastroenterologists here at Illinois Gastroenterology Associates want people to know that constipation isn’t normal. If you’re dealing with bowel problems, you’re not alone. More than 60 million people in North America experience constipation regularly. In many cases it’s short-lived and bowels return to normal. It’s time to see a doctor when it continues for several weeks or resolves and then returns again.

Defining constipation

Constipation is more complex than simply having infrequent bowel movements. There are a range of subtle symptoms. You may think that your bowels are regular if you have a bowel movement once a day. However, even if you’re having a bowel movement daily, you’re considered to have constipation if you have symptoms such as straining during bowel movements. 

Warning signs of constipation include:

Excess straining during bowel movements increases the risk of hemorrhoids. Constipation can also cause gas and abdominal pain.

Ways to prevent constipation

There are a few things you can do as far as self-care to avoid becoming constipated.

1. Fill up on fiber

Fiber plays an important role in digestive health. It provides bulk to stool and keeps bowels moving to help prevent constipation. Most Americans fail to eat enough fiber. Excellent sources are beans, oats, lentils, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Gradually increasing your fiber intake reduces the chances of experiencing digestive upset such as cramps and bloating. If you’re experiencing constipation, boosting your fiber intake may help.

2. Get moving

The colon responds to physical activity, and getting plenty of exercise promotes digestive health. People who get enough exercise are less likely to experience constipation. The muscles of the abdominal wall play a role in keeping your bowels moving. Weak abdominal muscles may be unable to do their job well. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and experience constipation, boosting your physical activity may get your bowels moving regularly.

3. Drink more water

Water is crucial to regulating bowel movements. Even mild dehydration can have an impact on your digestive system. What type of fluids you drink are just as important. It’s best to drink plenty of water and clear liquids. Milk can increase constipation in some people. People experiencing constipation should ensure that they’re drinking enough water. At least eight glasses per day is a good goal. You may need more water if it’s hot outside or if you’re losing fluids through sweat from exercising.

4. Eat more magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is a mineral that helps the bowels function normally. It draws water into the intestines and promotes bowel motility to keep things moving. This makes stools soft and easier to pass. Boosting your intake of magnesium-rich foods may ease constipation. 

Some of the foods that are high in magnesium include:

5. Avoid waiting to go

Ignoring the urge to go and holding in your stool can contribute to constipation. When you fail to go when you get the urge, the stool stays in the colon longer where it can become dry and hard, making it more difficult to pass when you do go. If you’re experiencing constipation, it’s important to go right away when you feel the urge.

You don’t have to live with chronic constipation. One of our gastroenterologists would be happy to talk with you about getting scheduled for an evaluation. 

We have offices in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs including Gurnee, Evanston, Skokie, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, and Highland Park. Call your nearest office to schedule a visit with one of our specialists or you can request an appointment here on our website.

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