Can we just talk about constipation for a second?
Stay in motion
Pooping in the morning is as routine as checking your phone, brushing your teeth or placing your morning Starbucks order. But even after endless scrolls of Instagram and cramping feet that feel heavier than Thor’s hammer, a lot of people struggle to go. In fact, constipation affects nearly 22 per cent of India’s population, with more than half terming it a severe long-term issue, finds healthcare firm Abbott in its recent Gut Health Survey.
“In simple terms, constipation is the inability or difficulty to pass stools on a regular basis,” says Bengaluru-based nutritionist, Anupama Menon. Besides being uncomfortable and causing a bloat monster in your stomach, this troublesome condition can prove to be a total health wrecker.
Menon explains, “After the body metabolises food, it enters the the large intestine (bowel/colon) where waste is eliminated through the rectum. In the case of constipation, the waste collects in the body and causes toxicity and inflammation, which are the root causes of other diseases.”
Feeling pressured yet? Before you sound the alarms and dial the doctor, distinguish between temporary and chronic constipation. Menon says, “Temporary constipation is often the result of a particular type of food that hasn’t suited your system or a short stressful period.” You could blame it on that greasy samosa you ate at 4pm and be assured it’ll be gone in a day or two. Chronic constipation is more dangerous, where “difficulty in passing stools for months or maybe years causes toxins to collect in the body.”
The backed-up feeling often stems from a poor inactive lifestyle, lack of sleep and chronic stress, all of which weaken the gut and digestive system. Eating like you’ve got the metabolism of a 10-year-old is another probable reason for chronic constipation. “Low water intake, a diet that is too low in fibre and high in processed foods and sugar will compromise the permeability of the intestinal wall,” explains Menon.
Leafy vegetables are always associated with healthier bowel movements, but being too healthy is counterproductive too. “Eating excessive raw foods and too much fibre can be difficult for the body to digest and in turn, lead to constipation and weight gain.” Another important thing to keep in check? Your supplement intake. Deficiencies of Vitamin B12 or excessive calcium and iron supplements could also cause constipation in some people.
Coping with constipation
Chronic constipation has something of a Chernobyl-like effect on the body, causing problems not only in the gut but almost everywhere around it. “When waste is not eliminated regularly, it leads to a salt imbalance in the body and spikes blood pressure,” explains Menon. “It could also cause oestrogen to get backed up into the bloodstream. High toxicity levels and oestrogen dominance are both factors that could increases the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer.”
In severe cases, constipation could lead to inflammation of the rectum which causes fissures and bleeding. And if left untreated, it may even lead to rectal prolapse where the rectum loses the ability to control motions, warns Menon.
Over-the-counter laxatives may ease the symptoms for a while, but they won’t treat the root cause of constipation. To keep the doctor away, eat an apple. No, literally.
“Incorporate sufficient fibre in your diet through fruits and vegetables. Soaked prunes, munakka raisins, apples, dark leafy green veggies, figs, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, soaked chia seeds and flaxseeds are all great remedies for a backed-up tract.”
You can also try grains like wheat or oat bran, steel cut oats and most other whole grains to maintain your motions.
Another great home remedy is to mix lemon juice with a spoon of virgin olive oil before bed. But remember, your lifestyle is equally important.
“Clock in nine hours of sleep a day and regulate stress through meditation and exercise to get the condition in control,” concludes Menon.
No pressure. Because that’s the ultimate aim right?
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