One symptom of bowel dysfunction is constipation. Constipation is the irregular or the incomplete emptying of the bowel.
In these days of diet and nutritional awareness, most people would probably increase their fibre intake to remedy a sluggish bowel. Most people are aware that wholemeal bread contains more fibre than white bread. This type of fibre is called insoluble fibre. Whilst reducing the effects of constipation, it is thought that insoluble fibre may irritate the intestinal lining. With this in mind, it may be worth balancing your consumption of bread with eating grains e.g. Porridge oats, which are classified as soluble fibre.
There are supplements that can be taken to restore bowel movement to a more regular cycle. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husks are bulking agents that surround the stool making them softer and more able to pass through the intestine. Ispaghula or Psyllium Husk are both available in powder form. Psyllium Husk is more likely to be available without any artificial sweeteners whereas in my experience I’ve only ever taken Ispaghula Husk with Aspartame. Psyllium Husk in particular, because it is not sweet, is not the nicest tasting substance.
Another approach to preventing constipation is to drink more water. The figures say that we ought to drink about 8 glasses. This equates to a minimum of 2 liters, if you not doing any exercise. If you are on an exercise programme then you will need to increase your intake of water to more than 2 litres. Notice that this is an intake of water rather than fluids. So caffeine and alcohol intake has to be monitored as they are both diuretics i.e. they force water out of the body.
If you eat food with a high water content e.g. fruit and vegetables then this will add to your daily water intake as will all foods to some degree. There seems to be a popular school of thought of not to drink water with your meal as it may hamper the digestion process. So you could either drink water before your meal or after your meal. Take care not to overdo the water consumption, spread it out over the day. Drinking too much water in a short space of time is not good for the body; remember you also need to replace salts as well during the day.
One thing to point out is to avoid becoming dependent on laxatives. They may offer short term relief from constipation, but the theory is that in the longer term you’re encouraging your bowel to become lazy. I was talking to my Medical Doctor this week about laxatives and she said that the over the counter medicines can be aggressive on the digestive whereas some of the prescription laxatives may be milder. As ever what affects one person in one way may not affect another in the same way.
If your bowel symptoms persist, you must see your medical doctor. Do not self diagnose as your pain may be a sign something more dangerous.