health

It's the health problem one in five of us suffer from, but never talk about.

OsmoLax Relief
Thanks to our brand partner, OsmoLax Relief

It’s a struggle 15 to 20 percent of the population are dealing with at any one time. So why aren’t we talking about it more?

People of all ages in all industries, from all backgrounds and all walks of life, encounter constipation. It doesn’t discriminate.

But it’s one of those health issues that’s inextricably linked to our lifestyle. And that’s fantastic news…because it means we can do something about it, if and when we’re struggling.

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are the most common causes: dehydration; extended illness; lack of fibre in the diet; a change in routine; and (unfortunately) not enough exercise. Certain types of medication – both prescription and over-the-counter, including some vitamin supplements – can bring about constipation, too.

However, according to Better Health Victoria, the nature of the causes indicate that a few certain types of people are more likely to be affected:

Shift workers, travellers and new nursing home residents.

Shift workers, for example, are forced to turn their daily routine on its head every few weeks. This can affect the amount of water they’re drinking, their meal times, and the amount of exercise they might be able to get – because we all know that finishing work at 10pm is a fantastic excuse not to go to the gym.

That means, sometimes they will need help to restore the body’s natural rhythm, as their digestive system may well be left reeling each time they’re thrown from the day shift into the depths of midnight work.

Travellers and new nursing home residents are also liable to suffer from constipation because of the change of routine. Generally, constipation is more common in older people, due to less intestinal muscle contractions and a reliance on regular medications, according to Better Health Victoria.

Pregnant women.

Pregnant women are prone to struggle, too. The influx of pregnancy hormones during the first and second trimester tends to slow down the speed at which food is transported through the gut.

And, as pregnant women tend to get bigger and a little bit less mobile towards the end of their third trimester, staying active becomes a difficult task indeed. It only makes sense that as they slow down, so too do their bodies.

constipation
It's uncomfortable, but constipation shouldn't be taboo. Image: Getty.
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Young kids.

While the issue of constipation in the above demographics is physical, the reason behind the high prevalence of constipation in young kids is a little bit different. It's often a behavioural issue.

According to research by OsmoLax Relief, it can start by the child ignoring the urge to go and do a poo, because they are distracted by more interesting things. Then when they go to pass the poo it is slightly hard and can cause some pain. A normal reaction to something painful is to avoid doing it again so you don’t feel more pain. But, when it comes to the bowels, this is not helpful.

The poo then builds up, becoming larger and harder and even more difficult and painful to pass, in a vicious cycle that can really cause a lot of discomfort.

A common time for a child to begin 'ignoring the urge' is when they start school, and the prospect of using the school bathrooms feels too public or unfamiliar. If this happens often, the brain starts ignoring these urges and soon, the child may not even be aware there is a poo to pass at all.

OK. We know this all sounds a little bit bleak so far. So let's talk about some ways to manage it.

1. Drink more water.

We are told this 12 times daily and it no longer really means anything to us. Hydration this, hydration that.

But upping fluid intake is a super simple way to make poos softer; drinking plenty more water and, if you're battling with constipation, easing up on the coffee and wine. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, meaning you'll retain less water.

Given that water makes up about 75 percent of faecal content, that's a big deal.

2. Fibre. All the fibre.

It's 25g for women and 30g for men. That's the recommended daily amount of fibre we should be getting in our diet.

Foods high in fibre include: vegetables; fruits; nuts; wholemeal bread; wholegrain bread; rolled oats; wheat bran; sunflower seeds.

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Fibre
A little extra fibre could make all the difference. Image: Getty.

3. The Big 'L'.

We understand 'laxative' can be a scary word. But it shouldn't be. For both adults and kids, they can be an incredibly helpful over-the-counter tool for relieving constipation.

Some laxatives such as OsmoLax Relief work to restore the body's natural rhythm by hydrating and softening stools in the large intestine. This makes them easier to pass and helps relieve any hard or uncomfortable build-up.

OsmoLax Relief works with the power of water to provide hydration and softness for relief that helps take the discomfort out. What’s more, it's sugar-free, salt-free and preservative-free, and basically taste-free too, which is a plus. It can be used by those over the age of four (supervised, for school-aged children, of course).

Simple.

4. Move about.

Exercise doesn't have to be insanely strenuous. Just... move. Move your arms. Move your legs. Move your bowels.

The less sedentary you are, the easier your body is going to be able to find it's natural rhythm. Which means softer stools.

And if you're still struggling? Obviously, the best place to go is your GP or medical professional.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner OsmoLax Relief.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.