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Constipation:how to overcome it?

Nearly 20% of French people have a slow intestinal transit which causes difficulty in having a bowel movement. Women are twice as affected as men, for hormonal reasons in particular. The right reflexes to adopt to regain good digestive comfort.

Sixteen million French people suffer from constipation. This disorder is rarely serious, but it is uncomfortable and sometimes turns into an obsession, especially in women who suffer more from it. Their transit is naturally slower and periods of hormonal turbulence are conducive to a more marked slowdown.

A large majority of women are indeed constipated during pregnancy and/or after childbirth, but also at menopause. Not to mention the fluctuations in transit during the menstrual cycle, since the intestine is extremely sensitive to female hormones.

If constipation remains occasional, good hygiene measures are enough. But when it becomes chronic, you must consult a doctor because it can become painful or reveal a pathology, such as colon cancer, diabetes or thyroid dysfunction, according to the French National Society of Gastroenterology.

Constipation, an illness with multiple causes

The slowing of transit can result from an intrinsic laziness of the intestine, an anatomical anomaly (hernia between the vagina and the rectum for example), an excessive sedentary lifestyle, insufficient hydration or a disordered diet . Taking certain medications is also likely to modify the transit:anxiolytics, anti-depressants, powerful analgesics such as morphine, ferrous salts... Stress is also a disturbing factor.

"We speak of chronic constipation when there are less than 3 stools per week for at least three months during the last six months, with hard and difficult stools to expel, a feeling of incomplete evacuation and the need for facilitating manual maneuvers ", explains Dr. Laurence Plumey, nutritionist, author of Le grand livre de la alimentation* (Ed. Eyrolles). Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about it, even if the subject seems a little taboo to you. It's his job, he's used to it.

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Hydration and fibers, the keys to good transit

Absorbing enough water (at least 1.5 l/day) is an absolute necessity to hydrate the stools and soften their consistency. If the stools are dehydrated, they do not favor the contractions of the intestine and then advance with difficulty towards the exit. To boost transit, "preferably choose water rich in Hepar-type magnesium sulphate", recommends Dr Plumey.

The other magic recipe is to increase your fiber consumption (fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, whole grains, wheat or oat bran, etc.). By swelling in the intestine, they improve the progress of food and its residues in the digestive tract.

"For normal transit, you should swallow about 30 g of fiber per day," says Dr. Plumey. To put the odds on your side, "also have a bowel movement every day at the same time to make it a ritual and condition the exonerating reflex", adds the specialist.

What to think of laxatives in case of constipation?

"You should always first try to treat your constipation in a natural way, specifies Dr. Plumey. It is only in the event of failure after a month that you can consider taking a laxative". Only take them as a short course (less than a month), otherwise they can cause severe bloating or vitamin deficiencies.

Several categories of laxatives exist:bulk laxatives which increase the volume of stools (mucilages), osmotic laxatives which hydrate them and paraffin-based lubricants which help them slide through the intestine.

For terminal constipation (blockage of stool at the very end of the colon), suppositories may be indicated. Ask the pharmacist for advice. In case of failure with these drugs, stimulant laxatives can be prescribed as a last resort to intensify the intestinal contractions. Do not take them lightly because they disrupt the functioning of the intestine in the long run.

(*) The Big Food Book by Dr. Laurence Plumey (Ed. Eyrolles). Available on Place des Libraires and Amazon

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