By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Constipation is a common condition but it may be prevented by taking several steps and making diet and lifestyle changes.
Some of the measures to prevent constipation include:-
Including enough fibre in diet
Fibre is available in fruits, vegetables, whole grain rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, seeds, nuts, oats, pulses etc. Most adults suffer from constipation due to inadequacy of fibre in their diet.
It is recommended that a person needs at least 18g of fibre a day. Foods rich in roughage and fibre makes the person feel fuller for longer and prevents overeating as well.
Fibre helps in the formation of solid or semisolid foods in the gut and helps in passing formed and soft stools. The increase in fibre in diet, however, should be gradual. A sudden increase in dietary fibres may make a person feel bloated and develop excessive flatulence and abdominal cramps.
Adequate fluids in diet
There should be inclusion of healthy fluids in adequate amounts in diet. Fluids help prevent dehydration that may also lead to constipation. Fluids help in softening the stools as well.
Persons who exercise vigorously especially in hot and humid weathers lose water rapidly and this may necessitate increased fluid intake to prevent dehydration and constipation.
Certain fluids like caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks are not good for bowel motions and excessive coffee or alcohol may precipitate constipation.
An active lifestyle
Sedentary habits often precipitate constipation. Being active and mobile helps prevent constipation. Ideally around 150 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended every week.
Development of good toilet habits
The urge to go to the toilet should not be ignored. When delayed the urge usually passes away and this may raise the risk of constipation.
The best time for passing stools is first thing in the morning or around half an hour after a full meal. The toilet should be used with adequate time and privacy.
Children need to develop good toilet habits while they are toilet trained. Fears regarding passing stool and associated pain need to be addressed early in children to avoid the risk of chronic recurring constipation later in life.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Mar 20, 2013