Constipation: Symptoms and treatment
Constipation is when you haven’t emptied your bowels at least three times in a week. It’s very common to be constipated and constipation can usually be treated at home with changes to your diet and lifestyle. But how do you become constipated in the first place? Express.co.uk chatted to nutritionist and founder of The Gut Clinic Hannah Richards to find out the cause of your constipation.
What is constipation?
According to Hannah, if you do not pass a bowel movement every day you are constipated.
On top of this, if you have any of the following symptoms, you are constipated:
- hard stools
- incomplete emptying
- constipation-predominant IBS
READ MORE- Does your anxiety trigger IBS? How to support your digestive system
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What causes constipation?
Sometimes there is no obvious reason why you are constipated.
Constipation is caused by a number of habits, but these can easily be reversed.
Hannah said: “Constipation can be learnt and perfected from childhood through to adulthood.”
The most common causes include a lack of fibre, not drinking enough fluids, and not moving enough, ignoring the urge to go to the toilet.
You could also be temporarily constipated due to a change in diet or routine, a side effect of medicine, or stress, anxiety or depression, according to the NHS website.
Hannah said you can be emotionally constipated and physically constipated.
Poor mental health and feelings of stress and anxiety can cause constipation.
Hannah said: “The brain and the gut are intrinsically linked, so the gut is often referred to as the second brain.
“It is linked via the tenth cranial nerve, also known as the vagus nerve.
“The digestive system only works in a parasympathetic state.
“So if you are always on the go and wired, but tired from staying up late, that’s why you are constipated.”
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Hannah recommends getting rid of negativity every single day, with meditation, breathing techniques, or yoga.
Figuring out specifically what is bothering you and trying to tackle that during the day will also help.
If you are feeling anxious or stressed about something that you can’t control, try using affirmations, working out, and doing something you enjoy to change your mind.
Physical constipation is when you are constipated due to your lifestyle and can be down to several reasons.
From changes in medication to diet and the time you eat, there are a number of factors which are at play.
Hannah explained: “You will be constipated if you have irregular meal times, and lack fibre and hydration.
“Make these changes before doing anything else and worrying that something else is wrong.
“Constipation is not always the fault of the food but more about the health and optimal functioning of the digestive system.
“I find that the change in the bowel comes when the changes come from lifestyle, habits and a dominance in the parasympathetic nervous system.”
Hannah noted that constipation isn’t a symptom of a poor diet, it is a sign that your entire digestive system isn’t working as it should be.
She said: “Making sure you are hydrated and have adequate fibre in your diet, which would mean having vegetables at every meal, is an absolute requirement for a healthy bowel.
“If you add to the problem, by smoking, and drinking alcohol and coffee in excess amounts, then it will be even harder to solve the problem.
“Look at your habits and lifestyle traits and make positive changes.”
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