How to fix constipation?
By far the most common ailment of the digestive tract is constipation, said to be a disease of modern civilization caused by sedentary occupations, by nervous strain and stress, by over-refinement of food and by wrong dietary and hygienic habits. In reality, it is only a symptom due to a variety of causes, including those mentioned, as well as predisposing gastric disorders, particularly of a motor type. The chief cause, however, is a faulty diet. In planning a diet for this condition, the type of constipation must be known. Two kinds are generally recognized: acute and chronic.
A strictly acute condition is not so common as was formerly supposed. Some degree of spasticity is usually present. This type of inactivity may be the result of a previous illness or chronic invalidism, an operation, pregnancy, obesity, or possibly of a specific dietary lack, particularly that of thiamine, any one of which may cause the muscular wall of the bowel to lose it tone. Irregular meals, insufficient water and unpleasant mental factors are likely to result in constipation.
Inattention to nature's call to evacuate is most conducive to constipation, as the reflex becomes dulled and there is less desire to evacuate the next time. Irregular and infrequent hours at the stool have the same effect. Soon after meals seems to be a suitable time, as the taking of food stimulates peristalsis along the entire alimentary tract. It is generally agreed that when a normal diet is taken, there should be at least one bowel movement per day. There is no cause for alarm if occasionally no defecation takes place for more than a day, especially when this follows a day having a more copious evacuation than usual or one in which little food is taken. Indeed, in some cases a bowel movement every other day may be normal. In other words, the establishment of a regular rhythm is the most important consideration.
When chronic constipation exists, there are unpleasant symptoms, such as headache, malaise, bad breath and coated tongue. Some physicians believe that these are caused by the absorption of toxic substances from the retained fecal mass, due to the increased permeability of the intestinal wall, probably because of the pressure against it; while others claim they are due to pressure on the nerve endings in the lower colon. When such symptoms occur, immediate relief may be obtained by the use of an enema, but this should be given only if prescribed by the physician.
Signs of contipation
Signs of constipation include:
- Irregular bowel movements and/or issues having bowel movements
- Bloated abdomen or abdominal discomfort
- Nausea or vomiting
What foods relieve constipation?
Peristalsis, the muscular movements by which food material is moved along the intestinal tract, is stimulated chiefly by pressure; therefore fiber, which absorbs liquids in its passage along the intestinal tract and thereby produces bulk, is a natural remedial agent for acute constipation. It is found in vegetables, in fruits and in whole cereals, particularly in the outre portion of the grain.
The normal diet contains 5 to 7 Gm. of fiber, but in constipated person this quantity may need to be increased. There is undoubtedly a quantitative relationship between the amount of fiber ingested and the laxative result. In cases of acute constipation the person should be asked to keep a record of foods eaten, after which the fiber content should be calculated. Usually it will be found to be deficient. The diet should then be planned and calculated as carefully as a diabetic's diet or other special diet. A well-balanced diet may be obtained by distributing the fiber almost equally among the fruits, the vegetables and the cereals, or approximately 2 Gm. from each of these sources. Thus, three fruits (one for each meal), such as prunes, apples and bananas, will yield this amount. Four vegetables, including one serving of potato and one each of string beans, spinach and asparagus, will yield 2 Gm. or more. Two slices of whole-wheat bread at each meal will supply the remaining 2 Gm. of fiber. Get 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. That portion should keep your gastrointestinal system active.
It will be noted, therefore, that special attention should be given to the fruits, the vegetables and the whole cereals in the diet. It may be found advantageous to substitute fruits for such bland desserts as ice cream, custard and gelatin preparations.
Bran may be added to cereals or to breadstuffs in the more obstinate cases of acute constipation. Bran should be used in moderation, as intestinal block has been caused by bran bolus, and in sensitive alimentary tracts the bran may be an undesirable irritant. As a rule, the dietary tracts of children are too sensitive to stand high roughage diets. Agar, an artificial bulk producer, is often prescribed to be taken in soups, breads, and sometimes made up into jellies, in which form it resembles gelatin. Agar and certain commercial preparations which are sold as laxatives owe their medicinal properties to the fact that they absorb and hold moisture and thus prevent undue drying of the fecal mass, which tends to make defecation difficult. Frequent drinking of water, 8 to 10 glasses per day, is usually recommended. Water taken before breakfast or before other meals is believed to stimulate peristaltic activity.
Other Laxative Factors.
Fats and oils are useful components of a laxative diet. Most of these are digested and absorbed before they reach the colon, but doubtless in many cases a sufficient quantity passes through to produce some lubrication. The non-digestible mineral oil or petroleum is no longer recommended for this purpose, but if used at all it should be taken at night and should not be served with food. Sugars and organic acids also stimulate peristalsis, and these constituents, together with fiber, account for the laxative properties of fruits. Prunes, however, are known to contain, in addition to the fiber, a chemical substance which increases their laxative properties.
High Fiber and High Vitamin Diet for Acute Constipation
- Increased bulk
- increased water
- Vitamins, especially thiamine
- Sugars and organic acids
- Normal protein and caloric values
The diet consists of the general or house diet supplemented by one of more of the following:
- Fruit, all kinds, especially figs, prunes, raisins, dates, apples, grapes
- Fruit juices, all kinds, especially oranges and prune
- Salads, with mayonnaise or French dressing
- Vegetables, especially those high in fiber
- Dark bread, including whole-wheat cereals and rye bread, bran muffins and bran bread
- Cereals, rolled oats, whole-wheat cereals, both cooked and "ready cooked," prepared bran when combined with other cereals
- Jams, jellies, molasses
- Wheat germ, yeast preparation or concentrates.
Diet for acute constipation
- Orange juice
- Whole-wheat cereal, cereal with milk
- Whole-wheat toast
- Stewed prunes
- Vegetable soup
- Roast beef
- Baked potato
- Head lettuce
- Whole-wheat bread
- Apple, bakes or raw
- Cream of corn soup
- Fresh spinach
- Tomato salad
- Rye bread
- Ripe banana with cream
Exercise, correct posture and proper abdominal massage are also helpful in correcting acute constipation. Fluids in abundance are indicated as an aid to the formation of normal stools. There are believed to be more effective if taken with the meals. These measures, together with diet, should take the place of cathartics and the indiscriminate use of enemas which have a weakening effect upon the walls of the intestine and ultimately intensify the condition which are expected to remedy. If a laxative is taken it should be by doctor's prescription.
Chronic constipation, owing to increased tonicity of some portion of the intestinal track, is very different from the acute type. It is caused by over-stimulation, resulting in a contraction which is usually accompanied by pain. It frequently occurs in cases of colitis or may follow some other gastrointestinal disturbance. It may be of caused by depression - at least it often occurs in certain nervous disorders. It may be caused by irritation of a chemical or mechanical nature: condiments, alcohol, excessive use of tea, coffee or tobacco, purgatives and sometimes very coarse foods. Whatever the cause, there is more or less of an impaction of the fecal mass at the point of spasticity and the diet must be planned to prevent further irritation. The usual symptoms are pains in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen and the passage of small thing stools or of small hard masses.
Diet to relieve chronic constipation
The dietary treatment of chronic constipation is usually the reverse of the treatment for constipation of the acute type. Only the softer forms of cellulose may be given. Sometimes it is necessary to begin the treatment with foods containing little or no cellulose, such as milk, eggs, malted milk, gruel, fruits juices, especially orange juice, and gradually add vegetables, fruits and cereals that are low in residue. Purees are an especially desirable form at this time. Milk to which lactose or dextrimaltose has been added makes an excellent food, since these carbohydrates tend to reduce putrefaction and often are slightly laxative. The fats and the oils are especially indicated in this condition. The people experiencing chronic constipation may need more than the average thiamine allowance, possibly in the form of concentrates, because dietary restrictions make it difficult to obtain from natural sources. In general a bland diet, as previously outlines, is indicated. After any special dietary treatment the return to a normal diet should be gradual.
Warning About Constipation
Contact your physician in case:
Constipation is a new ailment for you
You have some blood in your stool
You are experiencing weight loss even when you are staying on your diet
You have intense pain with daily bowel routines
Your constipation has lasted over two weeks
Foods that help with constipation
Nancy on November 02, 2014:
Found your Visual informative for good vegetable sources