We’ll tell you everything you need to know about constipation like what is constipation, the best thing to eat for constipation and constipation in pregnancy.
What is Constipation?
Normal bowel movements are different for everyone. Where one person does a big errand three times a day, the other only poops three times a week.
If you defecate less than three times a week, we speak of constipation. In constipation, the stool stays in the colon for too long. This makes the stool hard and dry, making it more difficult to go to the toilet.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Constipation can cause annoying complaints. If you suffer from constipation you can experience the following complaints:
- Being able to defecate less than three times a week
- Hard and dry stools
- Thin stools that leak out through the hard stools (overflow diarrhoea)
- Having to push hard and/or pain when defecating
- Abdominal pain and/or a hard, swollen stomach
- Haemorrhoids or fissures and/or cracks around the anus
- Often suffer from flatulence
What are the causes of constipation?
The most common causes of constipation are:
- Eating irregularly or skipping meals
- Eating too little fibre.
- Drinking too little
- Not exercising enough
- Tension or stress
- Stop defecation in case of urgency
- Use of medicines with a blocking effect (e.g. iron tablets or antidepressants)
What to do in case of constipation?
Do you suffer from blockage? You should do this for constipation:
1.Adjust lifestyle and diet.
Do not immediately reach for laxatives, but adjust your lifestyle and diet first. This is how you tackle the cause of the problem. Make sure you:
- Eat regularly and do not miss meals
- Eat about 30 grams of fiber every day
- Drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water every day
- Exercise intensively for thirty minutes every day,
Are you unable to get enough fibre from your diet? Then you can supplement your diet with bulk formers. Bulk formers are natural fibres (for example psyllium fibres) that ensure that your stool retains more moisture.
This will make your stool soft and flexible, making it easier to go to the bathroom. You can use bulk formers for a longer period of time without any problems because they do not stimulate your intestines.
Do you not notice any improvement after a few weeks? Then, in consultation with your doctor, you can temporarily use laxatives to give your intestines a helping hand.
It is important to adjust your lifestyle and diet if you use laxatives. If you don’t, your symptoms will likely return as soon as you stop using laxatives.
What is the best thing to eat for constipation?
If you suffer from constipation, it is important to eat fibre-rich foods. You need about 30 grams of fiber every day. Fibre contributes to normal bowel function and healthy bowel movements.
Since fibre absorbs a lot of moisture in your intestines, it’s important to drink enough. If you don’t, fibre can actually contribute to blockage.
In the table below you will find examples of foods rich in fibre:
|Foodstuff||Amount of fiber in grams|
|Portion of whole wheat pasta (75 gr)||5.2 gr|
|Serving spoon of brown beans (60 gr)||4.5 gr|
|Serving spoon of chickpeas (60 gr)||4.3 gr|
|Serving spoon of lentils (60 gr)||3.2 gr|
|Portion of brown rice (90 gr)||2.7 gr|
|Slice of wholemeal bread (35 gr)||2.3 gr|
|Handful of unsalted peanuts (25 gr)||1.7 gr|
|Serving spoon of boiled potatoes (100 gr)||1.3 gr|
|Handful of unsalted walnuts (25 gr)||1.2 gr|
When do you need to see the doctor?
Usually, constipation will disappear by itself as soon as you adjust your lifestyle and diet. Consult your doctor in the following cases:
- If your complaints persist for more than two weeks.
- If you have blood in your stool.
- If your bowel habits have changed permanently.
- If you don’t feel like your bowels are empty after pooping.
- If you suffer from stomach ache, unexplained weight loss and lack of appetite.
- If you have a fever.
How can you prevent constipation?
Because constipation is in most cases caused by an unhealthy lifestyle or diet, you can do a lot yourself to prevent constipation. This is how you can prevent constipation:
- Eat a healthy and varied diet.
- Eat regularly and don’t skip meals.
- Eat about 30 grams of fiber every day.
- Drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day.
- Exercise for thirty minutes every day.
- Go straight to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge.
- Stop smoking. You can read how to do this in our article about quitting smoking.
- Try to avoid or reduce stress and tension as much as possible.
Constipation in pregnancy.
Constipation is a common pregnancy ailment. Hormonal changes cause your bowels to work slower than normal. In addition, your baby takes up more and more space during your pregnancy, which causes pressure on your intestines.
Are you pregnant? Then drink one and a half to two litres of water every day, eat fibre-rich foods and exercise enough to activate your intestines.
Constipation and probiotics.
There are indications that probiotics can help with intestinal complaints such as constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
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