Though it’s not something that people like to talk about, constipation is a common – though uncomfortable – issue. It’s especially difficult to deal with as people begin to age. There are a myriad of things that can cause constipation and as we get older, these causes can become more prevalent. However, there are also many ways that constipation can be treated, including remedies you can use at home. Throughout this article, we will share with you most commonly used and successful home remedies for constipation in the elderly.
When is constipation a problem?
There are several things that affect a person’s bowel movements: age, gender, diet, exercise and general health. So, there is no exact number of times a person must go to the bathroom before their constipation becomes a serious issue. Generally, it should become a concern if you or the loved one you are caring for has three or fewer bowel movements a week.
In addition to bowel movements that are infrequent, it can also become a problem when constipation makes going to the bathroom generally difficult. This is especially troubling in the elderly since it causes excessive straining.
Since each person’s health profile is varied, so are causes of constipation. It may simply become an issue due to dehydration or lack of fiber. However, it can also be caused by injuries, stress, muscle issues, hormones, cancer or other, more serious underlying conditions.
Here are some of the home remedies and habits we suggest you try if you or your loved one is dealing with constipation.
Keeping your schedule consistent
This is quite intuitive: if you are struggling with constipation, try to go to the bathroom regularly throughout the day and keep that schedule consistent. Skipping your morning bathroom break – for example – can later lead to serious problems. It is best if you go to the restroom before bedtime and first thing in the morning. Getting up at the same time each day and moving around can also be very helpful.
Keeping a regular exercise schedule
Being constipated is extremely uncomfortable so if you are caring for someone who is struggling with it or if you are trying to remedy the situation for yourself, it may not be so intuitive to exercise. However, it can provide a great deal of relief. Elderly loved ones do not have to go to the gym or do any serious activity either, just taking a walk outside can be great at stimulating the muscles that help your intestines and colon function correctly.
Even more, try to make exercise a regular part of your or your senior’s routine. Getting in a moderate amount of movement per week, even if it is just walking about for thirty minutes a day, can greatly alleviate constipation. If that amount is impossible for you due to your age, set a smaller goal and stick with it instead.
Other than exercise, keeping yourself hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids can be a great way to ease and prevent constipation. Fluids can help food move through the digestive system and make going to the restroom much easier. You should aim for approximately 9-13 cups of fluid a day depending on your gender and health profile. These fluids can include things other than water such as green or black tea, coffee or other drinks. It’s best to ask a health professional about this specifically.
Taking magnesium supplements
Another addition to your diet that may help with constipation is magnesium. Some doctors recommend taking magnesium supplements that can function as laxatives. These can be purchased at pharmacies or even health food stores. Additionally, you can get magnesium from food sources such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, and peanuts. If you have kidney issues, it’s important that you speak with your doctor before making these changes.
Eating coconut oil
According to some medical specialists, adding coconut oil to your diet can help with the lubrication of your intestines and prevent constipation. You can either eat one to two tablespoons of coconut oil each day or simply integrate it into your daily menu. For example, you can add it to coffee, salad dressing, etc.
Eating foods rich in fiber
This is a remedy that you have most likely heard about before. Eating foods rich in fiber can be crucial in avoiding and treating constipation. A 2016 study found that a large majority of people who struggle with constipation on a regular basis benefited from adding fiber into their diet.
Soluble fiber, which soaks up water, can help soften stool and insoluble fiber adds bulk and makes the waste move faster through your digestive system. Some foods that are high in fiber but also easy to digest include berries, prunes, avocado, and bananas. Generally, including vegetables, fruits and whole grains into your diet is a great strategy for dealing with constipation.
However, it is important to understand that eating too much of the foods that include insoluble fiber can make the problem worse in some seniors. This is why consuming a mix of the different types of fiber is your best option.
Keeping a small footstool in the bathroom is a great idea. Putting your body into a squatting position by placing your feet on the stool in front of the toilet can help with bowel movement. This position is best for avoiding straining too.
For some people drinking coffee can be a great way for combating constipation. Caffeine stimulates the muscles connected to the digestive system and can increase a person’s urge to go to the bathroom. However, coffee can also mess up a person’s bathroom schedule and make some issues worse. So, it is important to approach this home remedy with caution.
For those individuals who are intolerant to it, dairy products can cause constipation. You or the loved one you care for may not have a diagnosis for dairy intolerance but if you suspect that this may be causing the constipation, go ahead and consult with your doctor. They may suggest changes in your diet and will be able to deduce if this is really the issue.
So, now you have a better idea of what sort of home remedies you can use in order to treat and avoid constipation. Changing your lifestyle, managing your stress, fixing your diet and getting more exercise can greatly alleviate this issue. However, if none of these remedies work – and even while you are in the process of deciding which strategy to utilize – you should contact a medical professional. If there is an underlying health condition that is causing chronic constipation, then they will be the best person to identify the cause and treat the problem.
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