What is constipation
Constipation is a common gastrointestinal problem that affects millions of adults in Australia. Defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard dry stools, straining to move one's bowels, and a sense of an incomplete evacuation.1 Constipation can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and difficulty passing stool.
The importance of regularity
Regular bowel movements are essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being. When we eat, our bodies break down food into nutrients that are absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining waste products are eliminated through the digestive tract as faeces. If this waste material stays in the colon for too long, it can become hard and difficult to pass, leading to constipation.
In Australia constipation affects around 20% of the population at any given time.2 Women are more likely to experience constipation than men, with rates increasing with age. In addition, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle, eat a low-fibre diet, and are dehydrated are at a higher risk of developing constipation. It is essential to promote regular bowel movements to maintain good health.3
Lifestyle tips for managing constipation
- Eat a high-fibre diet: A diet rich in fibre helps to promote regular bowel movements. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults consume at least 25-30 grams of fibre per day.4
- Drink plenty of water: Dehydration can lead to constipation, so it is essential to drink enough water throughout the day. The recommended daily intake of water for adults is around 2-3 litres per day.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help to stimulate bowel movements and promote regularity.
- Practice good toilet habits: Avoid delaying the urge to have a bowel movement and try to use the toilet at the same time each day.
- Consider a natural laxative if the above doesn’t help: Laxatives can be effective in relieving constipation. Look for a natural laxative and use under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Constipation can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. Regular bowel movements are essential for maintaining good health, and adopting lifestyle habits that promote regularity can help to manage constipation. If constipation is a concern for you best to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
American College of Gastroenterology. (2014). Management of constipation in adults. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 109(Suppl. 1), S2-S26. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.187
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2013). Australian dietary guidelines. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.