Page 29 - seniors today August issue
P. 29

include bowel movements that feel incomplete,         Four easy things you can do
        strain or pain when you try to pass stool,            1. Drink more water
        bloated abdomen, fissures, haemorrhoids or            Being dehydrated regularly can make you
        swollen tissue around your anus, blood streaks        become constipated. To prevent this, it’s
        in your stool, loss of appetite.                      important to drink enough water and stay
        Causes of constipation                                2. Eat more fibre
        Various factors can lead to constipation -- such      Increasing your fibre intake increases the bulk
        as unhealthy and irregular eating habits, lack of     and consistency of bowel movements, making
        fibre-rich foods in the diet, not visiting the toilet   them easier to pass. Consume a mix of the two
        when the pressure arises, leading a sedentary         fibres, insoluble fibres (found in wheat bran,
        lifestyle, insufficient exercise, not drinking        vegetables and whole grains) and soluble fibres
        enough water, and stress. Sometimes it may be         (found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans,
        due to any mechanical obstruction or a serious        lentils and peas, as well as some fruits and
        problem such as colon cancer.                         vegetables).

        Causes of constipation in the elderly                 3. Exercise more
        While causes of constipation are more or less         The fact is, your bowel movement is deeply
        the same for people of all ages, when it comes to     connected to your body movement. Which
        geriatric patients, sometimes, the use of certain     means, the more you move, walk, jog or run, the
        drugs to treat other medical conditions, such as      better your bowel movement will be. Regular
        antidepressants, antacids containing aluminium        exercise is the key to avoid constipation.
        or calcium, antihistamines, diuretics, and anti-
        Parkinsonism drugs, can be a cause.                   4. Over-the-counter or prescription laxatives
         Apart from this, there is also an often-ignored      Make sure you consult your doctor before
        issue: the loss of teeth, which makes it difficult    choosing an effective laxative, whether it is a
        to eat regular food. Older people may end up          bulking agent such as concentrated wheat husk
        eating soft processed food with low fibre.            or isabgol (psyllium), both fibre-based laxatives
         Another issue is urinary incontinence, which         used to increase the water content of your
        causes elderly people to consume less fluid in        stool, or stool softener or a stimulant laxative
        order to avoid frequent urination, which in turn      to stimulate the nerves in your gut to increase
        results in hardening of stool. Prolonged bed rest     bowel movements.
        due to a fall, accident or illness leads to lack of
        not just movement but lack of bowel movement
        as well.
         Lastly, it is ironic, however, the constant
        anxiety about bowel movement can make
        elderly patients over-dependent on laxatives,
        which are habit-forming. Over a period of time,
        the natural mechanisms fail to work without
        the help of drugs. For instance, repeated use of
        enemas also can lead to a loss of normal bowel
        movements. One way to combat it is by bowel
        training, helping the patient recognise pressure
        and the urge to use the toilet at the right time.

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