Stress, dehydration, a low-fiber diet and even medication can wreak havoc on your GI tract and lead to constipation.
Dr. Anshuman Chawla, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says constipation is a very common problem.
“Most of the time, constipation is not related to an illness or digestive disorder. Instead, it can be easily corrected through diet and lifestyle changes such as staying well hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods and exercising,” says Dr. Chawla.
Chronic constipation affects 63 million people in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Constipation occurs when bowel movements occur less often than normal or stools are hard, dry and difficult to pass.
Dr. Chawla suggests the following tips to prevent constipation:
- Eat a well-balanced diet of fiber-rich food such as legumes (beans, lentils and peas), whole grains (oatmeal, bran cereal and brown rice), nuts, spinach, fruit (berries, pears, apples) and even dried fruit (prunes and apricots).
- Drink plenty of water to hydrate and soften what passes through your system. Aim to drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
- Exercise regularly.
Dr. Chawla also recommends sticking to a regular bathroom schedule to prevent constipation.
“If you suffer from constipation for a few weeks in addition to rectal bleeding, severe abdominal pain and bloating, seek medical attention,” says Dr. Chawla, as constipation can be a symptom of colon polyps or even cancer.