Constipation is a very common and distressing issue for many people. Sometimes it can be a short term discomfort, other times it can become a chronic condition, with a huge physical, emotional and social impact on those who suffer with it on a daily basis. Chronic constipation is thought to affect 1 in 5 people globally.
Constipation presents as infrequent passing of stools which are dry, hard and difficult to pass leading to feelings of incomplete evacuation. In addition to being incredibly uncomfortable, constipation can lead to haemorrhoids, exhaustion and a loss of interest in food and eating.
Constipation can be caused by pre -existing medical conditions or medications which affect the motility, or the speed of digestion in the gut. It can also be caused by variations in the gut microbiome (the bacterial makeup of the gut) which can occur as a result of illness, medication or diet. Constipation can also be the result of a lack of fibre in the diet or a change in eating habits.
Many of those who have chronic constipation may eventually be diagnosed with IBS
which causes additional symptoms such as pain, bloating and wind.
If you have had symptoms of constipation, your first port of call should be your GP who can assess your symptoms in line with your medical history and recommend whether blood tests or changes in medication are needed. Your GP may refer you to a Gastroenterologist for further investigations such as colonoscopy or studies which can assess the speed of your gut. Your GP may recommend a dietary assessment by a qualified, registered dietitian who can tell you if there are any dietary causes for your constipation and recommend dietary changes to relieve things.
There are some things that you can consider trying at home to help with your constipation.
Firstly, make sure that you are eating plenty of fibre. There are many different fibre sources such as fibre from cereals found in wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals, those found in pulses such as beans and lentils and also fibres found in fruits and vegetables. It is important that you don’t increase your fibre intake without also making sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids every day, aim for 1 ½ to 2 Litres of fluid.
Make sure that you are active, constipation is much more likely in those who are inactive as exercise and movement stimulates the bowel.
Sometimes, people with certain medical conditions such as IBS
may find that increasing fibre makes their symptoms worse or others may feel that despite making some dietary changes their symptoms don’t improve.
At Stanner Nutrition Clinic, we have the expertise to assess your current diet and give you personalised advice and treatment plans to help relieve your symptoms, whist making sure that your diet remains nutritious and enjoyable.