Easing constipation with diet
A slower intestine is one of the most common changes experienced by older people. This can lead to constipation - difficult and infrequent passage of small, hard stools.
The smooth muscles of the gut contract more slowly and thus food moves more slowly through the intestine. Such constipation can usually be corrected by increasing fibre and fluid intake. High-fibre foods include whole grains, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. A bowl of porridge or whole-grain cereal each day is often enough to achieve bowel regularity.
Try to achieve a routine in which you go to the toilet at the same time each day. If you ignore the urge to go, stools remain in the gut longer, becoming dry and hard, and you will strain more when you do go.
Drink plenty of water
Try to drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily, even if you are not thirsty. As you age, your thirst response may decrease, so you may not always recognize when you need fluids.
Keep a bottle of water and a glass handy to remind you to drink regularly through the day and ensure that you get enough fluids, which will help stools stay soft, bulky, and easy to eliminate.
Try taking a natural laxative
If water and fibre are not sufficient, try taking a gentle laxative. Laxatives cause the stools to retain water as they pass through the intestine, so they remain soft and bulky.
Drink several glasses of water with the laxative, and choose a sugar-free variety if you are diabetic. It's best to avoid mineral oil laxatives as they can interfere with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins.
Persistent use of stimulant laxatives should be avoided because your colon will eventually be unable to function without them.
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