Health Watch: Constipation Myths
Myth 1: Constipation Affects Only Older Individuals
Truth: Older people face constipation issues due to factors like medical conditions, use of medications, low level of physical activity and poor nutrition. But this gastrointestinal issue is common among other age groups as well. Constipation might strike during pregnancy, after delivery or in the post-surgery period.
Myth 2: Constipation Denotes the Body’s Need for More Fiber
Truth: It is true that dietary fiber is a remedy for constipation. But that doesn’t mean your body is in need of more fiber! Constipation is sometimes caused by health conditions like thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, Stroke and Diabetes. It needs your attention and a doctor’s intervention if your constipation lasts for more than two weeks or if you experience painful bowel movements with bloody stools.
Myth 3: All Types of Fibers can Reduce Constipation
Truth: Fibers found in foods are of two types: soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. Insoluble fibers ease constipation by adding bulk to the stool and by driving it away from the intestine faster. Insoluble fibers are present in abundance in foods like wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta. Soluble fibers present in fresh fruits and vegetables might not be effective against constipation, but it may help in decreasing cholesterol.
Myth 4: Coffee is a Fix for Constipation
Truth: Caffeine in coffee can cause a contraction of the muscles of the digestive tract and hence can stimulate bowel movements. However, coffee is not included in the list of solutions for constipation. Why? Coffee, being a diuretic, draws out liquid from the stools and makes them harder. Thus, it worsens the condition of constipation. Caffeinated tea and colas, and alcohol produce the same effects.
Myth 5: Castor Oil is a Safe Remedy for Constipation
Truth: Castor Oil is an effective laxative. But that does not mean you have the total freedom to use it regularly! Long term use can prevent your body from absorbing certain nutrients and medications. Excessive use of castor oil can harm your bowel muscles, nerves and tissue. These conditions, in turn, trigger constipation.
Myth 6: Constipation Leads to the Formation of Toxins in the Body
Truth: Many people think that constipation leads to the absorption of toxic substances present in stools by the body. They believe that such a condition can trigger the development of diseases like arthritis, asthma and colon cancer. But there is no such evidence to prove that the stools produce toxins or that colon cancer can be prevented via the use of laxatives or by colon cleansing.
Myth 7: Swallowing of a Chewing Gum can Cause Constipation
Truth: Chewing gum cannot stick to your digestive tract in the same way it sticks to the bottom of your shoe. It would not cause constipation. Further, the undigested parts of the gum would get flushed out from the body during bowel movements.
Myth 8: You should have a Bowel Movement Every Day
Truth: Constipation is a relative term. The frequency of bowel movements among normal, healthy people vary widely from person to person; from three times a day to three times a week. A sure sign of infrequent bowel movement is no bowel movements after more than 3 days. You are considered severely constipated if you have less than one movement a week.
Myth 9: You may Ignore the Nature’s Call
Truth: Some people do not find enough time to have a bowel movement. Some even ignore the nature’s call while at work or somewhere else and wait until they reach home. In reality, ignoring the urge would not only make you feel uncomfortable, but it could also cause or aggravate constipation.
Myth 10: Bloody Stools are Normal
Truth: If blood appears in your stool, you need to check with your doctor. Bright red color of the blood indicates that hemorrhoids or tears in the anal lining have caused that bleeding. But maroon or tarry black blood or clots in the stool would require your immediate attention. This blood might be coming from the deeper parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
Safer ways to prevent constipation include drinking plenty of water, eating fiber-rich foods and engaging yourself in some forms of exercises or physical activities. When you are on a vacation, try to stick to your original exercise and dietary routine! And limit your alcohol consumptions to moderate levels. Stress can trigger constipation by affecting your regularity. Hence, perform yoga and meditation to get relieved from emotional stress. Use of certain medications can also aggravate constipation. Consult your physician if you are having issues.