The Doctors column: Four ways to manage constipation
It’s not your favorite topic of conversation. But if you’re having a tough time, perhaps you’ll find some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone (constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems in the U.S.) and that something as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables may help. Produce — along with beans and whole grains — is packed with dietary fiber, which your body needs to regulate bowel movements. Aim for about 20 to 35 grams of daily fiber, incorporated gradually into your diet to help reduce related gas and bloating. Here are four more tips to help you normalize your “No. 2.”
Consume more fluids
Water, fruit or vegetable juices and even clear soups can help soften stools and may make fiber more effective. Coffee and other caffeine drinks should be limited — they can cause dehydration and make constipation worse.
You know exercise can help control your weight, fight disease and improve your mood, sleep and even sex life; what you may not realize is that walking, biking and other physical activity also helps your digestive tract keep moving in the right direction. Try for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week.
Go when you gotta go
If you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, don’t ignore it — the longer you wait to heed nature’s call, the more water gets absorbed from your stool and the harder it gets.
Ask about medications and supplements
Some medications (painkillers, high blood pressure drugs and antidepressants, among others) may contribute to digestive problems. Run your prescriptions by your doctor if you’re having bathroom troubles and check in before adding any over-the-counter meds or supplements to your regimen. Overusing laxatives that stimulate “action” may lead to intestinal problems; fiber supplements may interfere with the absorption of certain medications.
“The Doctors” is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check http://www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.