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Constipation & Chronic Constipation

Constipation can be a very unpleasant experience, and chronic constipation even more so. Far from being a rare condition, chronic constipation is actually one of the most common disorders in Western countries [1]. If you experience constipation, it’s especially important to have a detailed understanding of the common symptoms and causes of this condition, which will make it much easier to accurately identify and change any contributing factors or behaviors.

Symptoms

Although constipation is generally defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week, bowel movement frequency is unique to each individual. Some individuals may only have 2 regular bowel movements a week, which may be perfectly healthy for them. For this reason, it’s often more useful to pay attention to the pattern of your bowel movements and take note of any long-lasting changes or wide variations from your usual patterns. 

 

Also, if you experience any of the following [2], [3] , you are likely experiencing constipation:

 

  • Dry, hard, or lumpy stools
  • Stools that are difficult or painful to pass
  • The feeling that bowels have not completely emptied after a movement
  • Needing help to pass stools, such as using your hands and fingers to press on your abdomen or to remove stools

Alongside these symptoms, people suffering from constipation often report bloating, nausea, cramps, and stomach aches. If you frequently experience two or more of the listed symptoms over a period of at least three months, you might have chronic constipation and may benefit from consulting with a healthcare professional

It’s worth noting that any time you experience an unpleasant change in your bowel movements for a prolonged period of time, it’s probably wise to consult a doctor. 

Causes

Although there are many medical conditions and even medications that can cause constipation (which is why it’s important to consult with a doctor), many people often experience constipation due to certain behaviours and lifestyle habits. The following are typical lifestyle-related causes and risk factors [2]:

 

  • Inadequate fibre consumption
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity / sedentary behavior
  • Stress, especially chronic stress
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Any major changes in your regular routine, such as sleeping or eating at a different time, or traveling

 

Of all these risk factors, inadequate fibre consumption and dehydration are particularly noteworthy. Through modernization, the typical Western diet has become much more processed and is subsequently lower in fibre and fluids, the lack of which promotes constipation. In fact, countries with predominantly Western diets experience much higher rates of constipation than countries whose populations typically consume more whole foods (which tend to be much richer in fibre and fluids). 

 

Fortunately, tweaking your diet to include more whole foods, high-quality fibre, and adequate fluid intake is a relatively easy change to make. Read on for more tips on what you can do to prevent constipation.

Preventative Behaviours

If you suffer from constipation, you’re not alone! Although constipation is a very common disorder, the good news is that there are changes you can make to significantly improve your symptoms, especially if your constipation is due to or worsened by certain lifestyle behaviors.

 

Fibre & Fluids

As mentioned, one of the lifestyle changes you can adopt to help relieve constipation, assuming your constipation is not due to an underlying medical condition, is to increase your intake of fibre and make sure you are adequately hydrated. The best way to do this is by making sure whole foods are a central part of your diet, since whole foods can provide you with both soluble and insoluble fibre, nutrients, minerals, and vitamins that fibre supplements typically do not. If you are still finding it difficult to incorporate enough fibre into your diet, you may want to consider taking a high-quality fibre supplement, such as Acazen. Acazen is Alpinia’s specially formulated acacia-gum fibre supplement and is 100% vegan and gluten-free. It’s also odorless and tasteless, making it quite versatile in how it can be used. 

Stress Management 

The gut and the brain are deeply interconnected in what is referred to as the gut-brain axis. (Learn more on the gut-brain connection.)

This means that chronic stress can easily disrupt the delicate balance of your gut, leading to all sorts of gastrointestinal issues, including constipation. As such, effective stress management can be very helpful in preventing or relieving symptoms. There are many ways to manage stress effectively, with one of the best being regular physical exercise

 

Regular Physical Activity

Regular exercise has many mental and physical health benefits, and is a keystone habit that can simultaneously improve many other areas of your life. Aside from relieving stress, there is also evidence that exercise may be an effective way to alleviate constipation. 

 

Sleeping Patterns 

Sticking to a set sleeping schedule and getting enough sleep are important regardless of whether or not one has constipation. However, there is evidence that disturbed sleep is associated with disturbed bowel functions, so prioritising your sleep may be a way to help relieve constipation. 

 

We hope these tips can help you relieve your constipation symptoms. Know of any other tips or tricks? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at info@alpiniashop.com

Acazen-Mono-Can-1

Your gut's new best friend.

ACAZEN, our 100% plant-based fibre supplement, can help soothe discomfort and boost your gut health. It’s also odourless and tasteless, so you can add it to pretty much anything! Your taste buds won’t know the difference…but your gut sure will. 😉

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