Constipation is a decrease in the frequency of your bowel movements to less than three times per week. When constipated, your stool is generally dry, hard, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. Constipation is usually only temporary, but can become a chronic condition as well. The risk factors for constipation include:
- age (being older than 65)
- diet (lack of fiber and/or fluids)
- certain health conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, colon cancer, liver disease, , or hypothyroidism)
- lack of physical activity
- certain medications (such as sedatives, narcotics, chemotherapy, medication for high blood pressure, Parkinson's drugs, and iron supplements for anemia
- overuse of laxatives
Usually increasing your intake of fiber and/or fluids plus adding some physical exercise will help relieve you of your constipation. Otherwise, your doctor may prescribe laxatives, but it is recommended that these be used in the short term only; overuse of laxatives can cause dependence (lazy bowel syndrome), abdominal cramping, worsened constipation, dehydration, and damage to your intestinal tract. If you have already been taking laxatives for a long time, you may need to wean yourself off of them slowly to allow your intestines to return to normal function.
A nutritional counsellor can help you lay out the right plan for you to manage your constipation, while acupuncture and TCM can help your intestines function more normally and relieve you of pain and discomfort. Yoga can help you to increase bowel motility and reduce stress, as can massage therapy.
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