Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant gastroenterologist at University Hospital, London explains
One in five of us complain of constipation but we may be putting undue pressure on our poo habits. ‘Only a third of people have a classic daily movement but anything from going three times a day to only twice a week is normal,’ says Dr Emmanuel.
‘If your constipation lasts a fortnight or more or you’re always straining, seek help.’ Your doctor should do blood tests to rule out something sinister. Sudden weight loss or blood in the stools could be an indication of cancer but this is rare or it may indicate anaemia or low thyroid function.
For about 40 per cent of people, eating more soluble fibre found in apples, oats, citrus fruits, berries, legumes or ‘guar gum’ (found in over-the-counter fibre powders such as Metamucil) will help. For another one in five, upping their game on toilet habits solves it. ‘Never ignore the urge to go as this can train your bowel towards constipation,’ says Dr Emmanuel.
‘When you’re on the loo, making your knees higher than your hips by placing your feet on a small stool or pile of books can make evacuation easier.’
Watch OTC laxatives such as senna as these help you go but make pain or bloating worse.
‘A new class of drugs called ‘prokinetics’ now work on the bowel muscle to encourage regularity and help with bloating and pain, something laxatives can’t do,’ he says.
Talk to your doctor and if you have tried diet and lifestyle changes ask for a referral to a specialist.
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