Stubborn bowels? Navigating constipation.

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Lucky us. As women age, our bodies undergo various changes, and some of these changes can lead to new health challenges. Constipation is one such concern that can become more common as women reach their 40s and beyond.

While it might not be a topic openly discussed, it's essential to address constipation. Let’s look at the causes, symptoms, and most importantly, solutions for managing constipation.

First of all we need to define what constipation actually is.  It’s characterised by infrequent bowel movements (fewer than three per week) or difficulty passing stools. It's often accompanied by hard and dry stools, straining during bowel movements, and a feeling of ‘not quite being done’.

Several factors can contribute to constipation in women over 40:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormonal levels, particularly during perimenopause and menopause, can impact bowel regularity.
  2. Lifestyle Factors: Sedentary lifestyles, inadequate water intake, and lack of fibre-rich foods can slow down digestion.
  3. Medications: Some medications, commonly prescribed to manage age-related health issues, can lead to constipation as a side effect.
  4. Reduced Muscle Tone: Muscles in the gastrointestinal tract may lose some tone with age, affecting the efficient movement of waste through the intestines.

Common symptoms include:

  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Hard and lumpy stools
  • Abdominal discomfort or bloating
  • A sense of incomplete evacuation

But don’t worry, there are a number of things we can do that can help manage and prevent constipation:

  1. Dietary Fibre: Increasing fibre intake aids digestion by adding bulk. Incorporate whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts into your diet.
  2. Water: Drinking adequate water supports digestion and helps soften stools. What is recommended is 30-35ml per kg of body weight per day.  But of course if you are in a physical job, exercising or in extreme heat ramp this up.
  3. Get Moving: Regular physical activity promotes bowel regularity by stimulating your intestinal muscles. Yoga has a number of poses that are designed to help bowel movement. There are lots of videos online showing the best yoga poses that will help get you moving.
  4. Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria can help regulate gut health and improve bowel movements.  The key here is a variety of probiotics, there are many different strains so make sure you get a variety in.
  5. Make Time to Go: Establish a regular bathroom routine and avoid delaying a bowel movement.
  6. Over-the-Counter: Certain over-the-counter laxatives or stool softeners can provide short-term relief but consult a healthcare professional before using them regularly.  For example products with stimulants in them can actually make your bowel lazy long term, meaning you’ll not be able to come off them. Our Eir Zipped contains artichoke to help with digestion, and Reboot contains Magnesium to help your intestinal tract keep moving overnight.
  7. Prescription Medications: In severe cases, a doctor might recommend prescription medications that aid bowel movements.
  8. De-Stress: High stress levels can impact digestion. Incorporate relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. 
  9. Ask your Doctor: If constipation persists, it's crucial to consult your healthcare provider. They can rule out underlying medical conditions and provide personalized recommendations.

Constipation is not something to endure silently, curled in the corner. By understanding the causes, recognising the symptoms, and following an approach that includes diet, water, exercise, and stress reduction, we can effectively manage and prevent constipation. 

Love Kate + Lisa