Many people struggle with the challenge of achieving comfortable, regular bowel movements at some point. While constipation can be a real pain in the rear causing discomfort, bloating and straining to have a bowel movement, diarrhea is no picnic either. Sadly, these two problems often go together, with some people suffering from chronic constipation with bouts of diarrhea. Fortunately, there are a lot of habits related to producing regular and comfortable bowel movements. This means those struggling with constipation or diarrhea can gain some control of their situation by changing a few key habits.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, constipation occurs when a person has “fewer than three bowel movements a week, or hard, dry and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.” Diarrhea, on the other hand, is the opposite problem and occurs when a person has frequent stools that are more loose and watery than normal. Either problem can cause discomfort.
First and foremost, drink plenty of liquids. When suffering from either diarrhea or constipation, getting enough water is key. The Cleveland Clinic states that while drinking water may not relieve constipation entirely, it will add liquid to the stool and thus make it easier to pass. For those with diarrhea, there is a risk of dehydration, so replenishing the body’s fluids helps lessen this risk.
Be sure to eat the right kinds of foods. Generally, those dealing with constipation want to eat high fiber foods. However, there is mixed research on the benefits of fiber for constipation. Eating too much fiber may actually make the problem worse. Eating a moderate amount of high fiber foods like leafy greens, beans and whole grains would be the most advisable course of action. However, those with diarrhea should avoid very high fiber foods. Foods with a high fiber content may cause more digestive duress and discomfort and worsen diarrhea. Sticking with foods like bananas and oatmeal when suffering from diarrhea can help add bulk to the watery stool.
Probiotics can benefit those with either digestive ailment. Probiotics restore the delicate balance of bacteria that lives in the gut. Studies have shown that this helpful bacteria found in yogurt and other cultured foods assists the gut in getting the proper balance of bacteria. Individuals who took probiotics increased the number of optimal bowel movements than those who did not.
Listening to the body’s cues helps reduce constipation. When the body’s urges to relieve itself are followed promptly, it can help avoid constipation all together. However when the body’s signals are constantly ignored, the body gets into the habit of not producing a bowel movement when necessary. Some doctors think bowel training, or going to the bathroom and sitting for ten minutes at a time in hopes of producing stool, may help the body regulate its digestive processes.
Getting some exercise can speed up the body’s process of elimination. A body in motion quite literally gets things moving through the gut. Light aerobic exercise, like walking, is all that’s needed to keep the digestive system trucking along.
When these lifestyle tips fail, it’s best to consult with a doctor to further discuss ongoing problems with constipation or diarrhea. A doctor can best advise on the next steps someone suffering from chronic irregularity should take.