August 2015 By Naini Setalvad Constipation is not just a common problem, it is also very trying. Naini Setalvad offers a variety of measures to resolve it. Constipation is a problem not everyone feels comfortable to discuss. Therefore, those who experience it suffer in silence. There are several types of constipation, mostly characterized by difficulty in passing motion. Either the stool is painful, or too little or too hard. Constipation results from the accumulation of faeces in the large intestine. The longer they remain, the more water is extracted and the harder they become. This accumulation may be caused by a reduction in the rhythmic bowel contractions that normally push food through the system or by a bowel obstruction. Constipation means there is waste that is still present in your body. It results in a host of other diseases. Acne, dull skin, flatulence, gas and even hair fall can be a possible result. Constipation can be associated with pregnancy, an under active thyroid gland, irritable bowel syndrome and depression, as well as the use of painkillers and a diet that is low in fibre. In children, it may be caused by emotional disorders. The elderly are more prone to constipation because they tend to eat smaller quantities of less bulky foods, and exercise less. Symptoms of constipation include pain on defecation and a feeling that the bowel has not been completely emptied. Persistent constipation in older people may indicate a growth in the large bowel, especially if this is accompanied by pain and bleeding. In the case of children, it may be due to a congenital malformation of the bowel. Sudden constipation together with pain and distension of the abdomen indicates an obstruction in the bowel, and requires emergency treatment. All constipation benefits from an increased intake of fibre and fluids. Laxatives may also provide occasional relief although they should not be used regularly. There are three types: Stimulants, which affect the muscular movements of the bowel and speed up the passage of the faeces. These may lead to cramps. Fluid retainers, which draw water back into the faeces. Suppositories stimulate the bowel quickly, while enemas will wash out the contents of the bowel. Dietary measures In most cases, constipation is largely a result of eating a diet that includes a lot of refined and processed foods and relatively small amounts of fibre and water. The solution is to streamline your diet. In addition to curing your constipation, good dietary measures increase your iron content, lower your blood pressure, and act as powerful antioxidants, thus being excellent for your hair, skin, eyes and immunity. Most of these foods are also low in the glycemic index, thus being diabetes-friendly. Make changes in your diet and include a high fibre diet gradually so that your digestive system and your taste buds have time to adapt. Fiber adds bulk to the stools and accellerates the progress of waste material through the digestive system. You may suffer from wind initially if your body is not used to fibre. Gradually increase consumption of fruit, vegetables and salads. You can then move on to introduce complex carbohydrates, such as whole meal bread/grain/brown rice, lentils, pulses and whole meal cereals including oats. Once you get used to such a way of eating, try to base all your meals around such high fibre foods. Rather than treating meat and breads as the main component of your meal with an odd vegetable as an accompaniment, reverse this habit. Fibre absorbs a lot of water as it passes through your system, so make it a point to drink more fluid than you normally would. Pure water, coconut water, herbal teas, juices, fruits are healthier choices than tea, coffee, colas and alcohol. Combat constipation by adding figs, mangoes, papaya, brown rice, guavas, grapes, bananas (avoid the over ripe ones), carrots, beetroot and prunes to your diet. They work well but remember to treat them as part of a varied balanced diet rather than as the ‘instant fix’ when your constipation is troubling you. Ripe bel fruit is the best of all natural laxatives because it cleans and tones up the intestines. Drinking warm water with freshly squeezed lemon twice or thrice a day is also helpful. A couple of tablespoons of aloe vera juice every morning helps. Have your vegetables in the form of salads, be it cabbage, carrot or lettuce. It’s crucial to have a variety of vegetables in your plate. Don’t forget your leafy greens in this list as well. A semi-strained vegetable juice works wonders for the digestive system as well. It is important to include at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercises and pranayama to help combat constipation. This activates your digestive system and regulates it as well. Incorporate these simple measures and you will not face the problem of constipation again. The recipe below will help prevent constipation and support your body if it is already suffering from constipation. Fruit fiesta Ingredients One prune One dried fig One dried apricot Method Cut the apricots into halves Cut the prunes into halves Cut the dried figs into halves as well. Immerse the ingredients into just enough water to completely cover it Maintain this and leave it to soak overnight (for 12 hours) Serve warmly or serve chilled as an innovative dessert. About the author: Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specializing in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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