Constipation is when you go to the loo less often or you have to strain when you do go – caused by stools being hard and small. Common symptoms include stomach ache, cramps, feeling bloated, nausea, feeling over-full, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and depression. It can be caused by:
· not eating enough fibre (fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds and cereals)
· a change in routine or lifestyle
· ignoring the urge to go
· side effects of certain medications
· not drinking enough fluid
· anxiety or depression
· in children, poor diet or fear about using the toilet can be responsible
Constipation can be a symptom of cow’s milk intolerance or allergy – especially if other symptoms are present (runny noses, eczema or wheezing). Avoiding cow’s milk, cheese, butter and all dairy products and eating a fibre-rich diet is always preferable to prolonged laxative treatment.
There is no need to include a food in the diet that can cause such unpleasant and distressing symptoms, especially given that dairy foods are not essential in the human diet. Meat, meat products and junk food can also cause constipation.
Straining can not only be painful but it can also cause bleeding or swollen veins in the anus known as haemorrhoids or piles. If you’re bleeding regularly from your anus, notice fresh blood on your stools or your constipation lasts more than two weeks, see your GP.
Make sure you get enough fibre from vegetables, pulses and wholegrain cereals – there’s no fibre in meat and dairy foods. Drink one to two litres of water a day and exercise regularly. Fibre is essential in the diet to maintain good bowel health through regular movements.
See our Nutrition News on digestive health.
Find out what you need to eat each day here.