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Dr. Martin’s Tips for LifeLong Health: Constipation


Dr. Tim Martin shares his perspective on health topics like constipation from his years of experience as a primary care physician and wellness champion.  

The Truth About Constipation  

People don’t like to talk about it.  

Bathroom habits should stay, well, in the bathroom. But it’s important to be aware of and address the all too common issue of constipation. 

Constipation is present when one or more of the following occurs:  

-Fewer than three bowel movements per week 

-Hard, dry stools 

-Difficulty or pain when passing stools 

-Feeling that not all stool has passed. 

Constipation can have a significant impact on your quality of life, affecting your physical and mental health, and how you interact socially and at work.  As the most common digestive complaint in the U.S., constipation leads to more than two million doctor visits a year. 
 
Defining what’s the appropriate frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person. From once a week to several times a day, the number of bowel movements in the normal range is quite broad.  

What’s important is maintaining the frequency that’s normal and comfortable for you. Because there is so much variation among people, and the topic just doesn’t come up much at parties, let’s list what’s true and not true about constipation.  

Not True: 

-Having a bowel movement every day is essential.  

-Without frequent bowel movements, toxins will accumulate in your system causing you to be ill.  

-Constipation is only treatable with laxatives. 

-Never use laxatives or over-the-counter remedies. 

-You must have an underlying health condition if you have chronic constipation.  

True: 

-You can track your food, water intake, activity level, medications and stress to better understand what works well for you and what exacerbates the problem.  

-Natural over-the-counter aids are safe for occasional use.  

-Chronic constipation is challenging but can be effectively managed.  

-Perfectly healthy people may struggle with constipation.  

Eliminating the Mystery  
 
Everyone has the occasional irregularity, but when it becomes a pattern talk to a healthcare provider. Identifying causes and treatments can be elusive. Several conditions may contribute to constipation such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), anxiety, depression or pregnancy. Taking prescription painkillers and other medications may also slow your bowels.  

Once these factors are ruled out or managed, consider making some lifestyle changes to get things moving in the right direction (i.e. out of your intestines!) 

Avoid: 

-A diet heavy in meat and dairy products 

-Processed foods, which are high in fat and sugar 

-A lack of high-fiber foods 

-Getting dehydrated. Be sure to drink adequate water daily.   

-Too much alcohol or caffeine 

-Being too sedentary. Your lack of movement may result in lack of bowel movement, too.   

-Ignoring the urge to use the bathroom. When nature calls, answer!  

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-More high-fiber foods in your meals like fruits, vegetables, whole grains. 

-A fiber supplement with a glass of water each day.*  

-Some form of physical activity for 30 minutes each day, even if it’s just a walk. 

-Using the bathroom as soon as you have the urge. 

-Drinking water every day, all day. 

-The occasional hot cup of coffee to stimulate your bowels. 

-Probiotics to help increase the number of bowel movements or make stool easier to pass. 

Retraining yourself and your bowels may take a few weeks to see results but stick with it.   

What’s True For You 

Being constipated for any amount of time can zap your energy, make your pants feel too tight, or have you doubled over in pain.  

If you are dealing with chronic constipation, reach out for help. Text our office at 325-268-0650 to make an appointment to discuss your concerns.  

We will first help determine if there are any underlying factors contributing to your constipation. Second, because our practice is focused on health and wellness, we can help you make lifestyle modifications to optimize your time in the bathroom!  

The truth is if you are struggling with constipation you’re not alone, so don’t suffer alone.  Turn a life-long problem into LifeLong health and wellness. 

Sources: 
https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/chronic-constipation-facts-vs-myths https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4059-constipation https://www.healthline.com/health/cic/what-your-gut-is-trying-to-tell-you https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318694  
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/probiotics-may-ease-constipation-201408217377 

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