While this could be an embarassing topic to most women, it is a condition that could cause anxiety and an uncomfortable way of life.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become difficult to pass.
Women suffer more constipation than men and this occurs often during pregnancy, after childbirth, before menstruation and after menopause.
Our bodies work differently. Some women get frequently constipated while others have no problem at all even with pregnancy, hormonal imbalance etc. I have seen a woman eat a whole meal of beef stew one day after giving birth and she had a smooth bowel movement even after such a meal. Another wouldn’t dare.
Signs of constipation
- Difficulty in passing stool
- Dry and hard stools
- Painful bowel movement
Most healthy persons have a bowel movement pattern. Some will go two to three times a week whole other might go several times a day.
Causes of constipation
- Not drinking enough water
- Sitting for long hours without any form of exercise
- ‘Postponing’ the urge to use the toilet
- Eating no/little fibred food
- Taking strong painkillers eg Brufen
- Iron pills
- Taking some BP drugs eg Atenolol, Nifedipine
How to avoid constipation
CONTROL THE STRESS : Think positive and quit overthinking about things you have no control over. Laugh at the sky and smile for every single blessing you have. Avoid ‘bad’ friends and focus on who makes you happy.
REHYDRATE: Don’t be shy to carry a bottle of water too like those city girls who will keep sipping little amounts by the day. Join the club, they ain’t showing off, they just want to have a smooth bowel movement.
Sparkling water is more effective in relieving constipation than tap water.
Carbonated drinks may make the situation worse.
EXERCISE : Walk, rope skip and play with your children or nephews and nieces. Do you live in a flat? Walk those stairs from ground floor to top floor at least three times a day.
Exercise has many other health benefits so keep doing them even after the constipation ends.
Ensure you do not live a sedentary life.
Remedies to control constipation
If you have been having a bad case of constipation, on top of practising the above recommendations on avoiding constipation, here are a few more tips.
There are various types of laxatives:
- Those that force a bowel movement by squeezing the intestines
- Those that help move fluids through the colon
- Others add a slick coat to your intestine’s walls, allowing stool to move through your colon and out of your body more easily. A good example is castor oil.
- While others moisten/soften the stool by pulling water from your intestines. This allows the stool to exit your body more easily.
Different laxatives work differently for different people.
Most of the above chemists are readily available in many Kenyan chemists.
However, excessive use of laxatives may cause your body to over-rely on them.
Rectal suppositories are usually inserted through the anus and may also assist in softening the stool and encourage a bowel movement.
They are also available in many pharmacies.
3. Change of diet
Foods that will help with constipation.
The list below includes foods readily available in our Kenyan local markets.
- Sukuma wiki and Spinach
- Lots of cabbage
- Passion friuts
- Thorn Melon
- Lots of grapes
- Sweet potatoes
- Green maize (eaten in small quantities)
- Lentils (kamande)
- Chia seeds
A diet high in fiber helps add bulk and weight to stools, soften them and stimulate bowel movements. However, in some people, high-fiber diets can make constipation worse, so it’s important to understand what works for you.
Foods to avoid when constipating
They can however, be taken in small portions.
- White rice
- White bread
- Dairy products
- Chips (french fries)
See your doctor or other healthcare professional if:
- Your bowel habits change
- Symptoms persist
- There is blood in your stool
- You’re having serious stomach pains
- You lose weight without trying
- Fiber and exercise haven’t helped