Symptoms of rectal constipation don’t just consist of infrequent bowel movements; you may also experience hard stools or strain while on the toilet. If you’re confused about the frequency of bowel movements that physicians consider normal, be assured that you don’t have to have one every day, says the American Academy of Family Physicians, which cites the normal range as anywhere from three times a day to three times each week. Only in rare cases is constipation an indication of a serious ailment, such as colorectal cancer or autoimmune disease, says the Mayo Clinic. Constipation can typically be resolved with home remedies that place an emphasis on making modifications to your diet.
Boost the fiber in your diet so stool becomes softer, advises Mayo Clinic experts, who indicate that you should eat at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. High-fiber foods include vegetables, wheat bran, whole grain foods and fruit, says Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative physician. If you find that you cannot get enough fiber in your diet, he advises mixing a rounded tablespoon of powdered psyllium with a glass of water or juice and drinking it, followed with another glass of water or juice. Restrict foods with low fiber content, such as milk and dairy products (such as cheese) meat and processed foods, urges the Mayo Clinic.
Take Your Time
If you feel the need to go, don’t ignore it, says the AAFP; if you tarry, water is absorbed from your stool, and it becomes harder and more difficult to pass. It may be beneficial to set a designate a certain amount of time where you can attempt to have a bowel movement undisturbed, such as right after you eat.
Make sure you’re thoroughly hydrated, advises the AAFP, as this can also help your body form soft stools. At least eight glasses of fluid intake each day are recommended. Suggested fluids are water, soups, juices, tea and other drinks. Avoid caffeinated beverages that can cause dehydration, Weil advises.
Get regular exercise or increase your level of physical activity. This stimulates your intestines, explains Mayo Clinic experts, who advise that you get 30 minutes of exercise each day almost every day of the week.
Mayo Clinic experts advise against the use of most types of drugstore laxatives, as you may come to rely on these too much. The safest over-the-counter laxatives are those that produce bulk, such as FiberCon, Metamucil and Citrucel. Weil also recommends a natural supplement called triphala, which can be purchased at many health food markets and taken on a daily basis. Be extremely cautious using stimulant laxatives, such as Correctol and Dulcolax, warns Mayo Clinic experts; your colon may come to rely on these to function properly.
About this Author
Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She’s worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.