what you can do
what you can do
Often, improving your lifestyle and diet is enough to relieve constipation.
Do your best to:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, and wholegrain bread or cereals
- Drink enough:
1.5 to 2 litres of water per day is recommended
- Get regular exercise, e.g. a daily walk of 30 minutes or more. Or if possible, run, cycle or swim.
- Try to go to the toilet at a regular time of day; when you feel the urge, don't resist.
Sometimes, though, constipation has other causes.
It is not always possible to solve the problem by diet alone. Especially if the symptoms persist for weeks or months, you should see your doctor.
Material in food that we don't digest at all: it's called fibre, or roughage. Fibers are important for healthy eating.
In the 1970s researchers noticed that in regions where the diet contained a lot of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals lower rates of certain diseases were diagnosed. This was the time when fibre was realised as an important health supporting part of our food.
Dietary fibre includes both, indigestible parts and substances that are fermented by our gut bacteria. Hence, to keep your colon active and healthy it is important to eat enough fibres.
As a result of the modern Western lifestyle we don't get enough physical exercise. We spend too much time sitting, not enough time walking, and many of us don't have to do any hard physical work. However, if we don't move our bodies actively, our insides also slow down.
To complete the negative spiral, we tend to drop our regular sport or fitness activities when we are under pressure, which is counter-productive as stress hormones slow down our digestion, too. So, when we are under stress we need exercise most – because it reduces our levels of stress hormones.
The result: getting regular exercise is one key to keeping our gut healthy.
Talk to your doctor
Nobody feels very comfortable talking about their bowel movements. But don't worry – you can always talk to your family doctor about this. Remember how common constipation is: that means your doctor helps a lot of people having the same problems.
It's a good idea to make some notes. For a week or two, keep track of what you eat and how often you go to the toilet. Write down any medication you are taking, and any recent illnesses you have had. This information will help your doctor to decide what treatment is right for you.