What is constipation?

Constipation refers to the inability to defecate. Hard, small and difficult to pass stools is the most frequent complaint. The frequency of defecation and the consistency and volume of stools vary so greatly from individual to individual that it is difficult to determine what is normal. In general, most physicians recommend at least one bowel movement a day.

 

What causes constipation?

There are a number of possible causes of constipation, but the most common cause of constipation is a low-fiber diet. Other common causes include: inadequate fluid intake; lack of physical activity; various medications (e.g, anesthetics, antacids, diuretics, etc.); low thyroid function; and the irritable bowel syndrome.

 

What dietary factors are important in constipation?

A high-fiber diet, plentiful fluid consumption, and exercise is an effective prescription in most cases of constipation. High levels of dietary fiber increase both the frequency and quantity of bowel movements, decrease the transit time of stools and the absorption of toxins from the stool, and appear to be a preventive factor in several diseases. Particularly effective in relieving constipation are bran and prunes. The typical recommendation for bran is 1/2 cup of bran cereal, increasing to 11/2 cups over several weeks. When using bran, make sure to consume enough liquids. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day. Whole prunes as well as prune juice also possess good laxative effects. Eight ounces is usually an effective dose. In addition, 25 to 35 grams of fiber from food sources are recommended.

 

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