When the need to defecate is three or less times a week, this is called constipation. It is a common problem characterized by slow and uncomfortable bowel movements. As a result, the stool is too hard, too small and dry. It can ruin your life quality 24 hours a day and will lead to additional health problems when not treated.
Its prevalence is almost 20% in adults of all ages, and 35% percent in people above 60. The risk of constipation is higher in women, people with non-white skin, with low income, over the age of 60, with a sedentary life (who do not exercise), with low education, and diagnosed with a medical condition that may cause constipation, such as Parkinson’s disease.
What are the main causes of constipation?
Fiber-poor eating habits, low fluid intake, drug use, metabolic or neurological disorders, psychosocial problems can cause constipation. Some of the other causes can be listed as follows:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Habits like delaying defecation, reading or using smartphone in bathroom
- Rectal prolapse
- Anal canal stenosis
- Anal fissure
- Hirschsprung disease
- Central neurological dysfunctions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Anorexia nervosa
Why is constipation common in old people?
Older age generally means increased number of health complaints and a more sedentary lifestyle. Both result in the slowdown of metabolism and increase the likelihood of bowel problems. It is especially important to watch what you’re eating and how often you exercise when you get older.
How to prevent constipation?
Consuming foods high in fiber relaxes the entire digestive and excretory system. Therefore, daily fiber intake should be increased to 20-25 grams. It is also important to drink plenty of water. If you do not get enough fluid through diet, the intestine will get what it needs during digestion, resulting in drier and harder stool. Physical exercise is also one of the most effective ways for the excretory system to work healthier.
Exercises that increase breathing and heart rates, such as running, swimming, cycling and dancing, also help to mobilize the intestines. Yoga and deep breathing exercises are also effective physical activities for constipation.
Deep breathing exercise is done by sitting on a chair. Exhale completely through the mouth and inhale through the nose for four seconds with the lips closed. Then the inhaled breath is held for seven seconds and exhaled fully through the mouth again for eight seconds. This cycle should be done a total of four times.
Constipation and nutrition
Alcohol, gluten containing foods, processed grains, milk and dairy products, red meat, fried foods and fast food can cause constipation when consumed too much. For this reason, people with digestive and excretory complaints should avoid these foods as much as possible.
Prunes, apples, pears, kiwi, figs, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines), spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, artichokes, peas, beans, lentils, chia seeds, flax seeds, whole grain rye bread, kefir are very useful in constipation. These foods with high fiber and probiotic content can treat constipation and prevent its recurrence.
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