Know if apple cider vinegar can help you, what can lead to constipation, and tips on applying lifestyle changes to minimize symptoms.
About 1 in 5 adults experience constipation, and this changes to 1 in 3 for adults over 60. The prevalence of constipation increases with age and is higher among females. As a result, many older women may experience constipation more than others due to hormonal fluctuations and lifestyles.
What is constipation?
Definitions of constipation are inconsistent. They all describe it as a condition of being unable to pass fecal matter for a more extended period than usual. Stools may be small and hard and strenuous/painful to pass.
Anyone can regularly experience constipation, and some women may have alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
Constipation and apple cider vinegar: does it work?
While there are anecdotal reports that apple cider vinegar can help with constipation, there is no scientific evidence that it does in humans. Still, consuming it can help promote a healthy colon by reducing inflammation due to the polyphenols present.
The acetic acid (one of the major acids in vinegar) promotes colonic bacteria’s production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). After that, the effect can be beneficial for the colon’s lining and may help ease constipation, as noted in a study on laboratory mice.
Lastly, apple cider vinegar “with the mother” (as indicated on the bottle) is a modest probiotic source.
How much apple cider vinegar does it take to be effective?
Because vinegar is acidic, consuming too much can lead to tooth sensitivity and irritate the esophagus lining. Using a couple of tablespoons on a salad, perhaps with a drizzle of olive oil, is an easy way to enjoy it.
Always include water to help dilute the vinegar and lower the acidity.
Causes of constipation
Significant causes of constipation for older adults are the malfunctioning of the muscles along the pelvic floor, and the time it takes the fecal matter to travel through the colon.
You may have constipation because of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other disorders of the GI tract.
Stress can impact your bowel through hormonal and inflammatory actions, slowing down colonic performance and leading to constipation.
Some medications that can interrupt your typical bowel pattern leading to constipation are:
Calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure)
Antacids with calcium or aluminum
And iron supplements.
Other major contributors are:
Low intake of dietary fiber
Inadequate fluid intake
And lack of physical activity.
Can too much fiber cause constipation?
Yes, eating fiber-rich foods or taking fiber supplements without drinking plenty of liquids can be constipating. Similarly, if you are taking fiber supplements, use caution to take them as directed. The bulk from fiber needs help for a smoother passage throughout the GI tract.
Menopause and constipation
A 23-year longitudinal observational study on women going through menopause noted that reproductive hormones were not a significant factor in causing constipation. On the other hand, anxiety, stress, and the associated hormones, including cortisol, may be factors.
Some reasons for constipation during and after the menopausal years are a lack of activity, loss of muscle mass, and declining pelvic floor muscles.
How to treat constipation
Include a daily exercise program to help you love your gut. Lifestyle changes involve drinking plenty of water throughout the day and eating various fiber-rich, whole foods. A walking program of at least 150 minutes per week can do wonders spread over several days. In addition, other activities like swimming, yoga, and pilates can also help.
Suppose pelvic floor dysfunction is the reason for your constipation. In that case, you might ask your medical provider about pelvic floor rehabilitation, also known as biofeedback. According to several controlled trials, pelvic floor rehabilitation has been shown to be effective in over 70% of patients with pelvic floor dysfunction.
Love your gut by eating enough and different types of fiber
All types of fiber promote a healthy gut. However, some fiber products may not help prevent constipation.
Choose whole grains, vegetables, and fresh or frozen fruits with edible skins, nuts, seeds, lentils, and beans. Also, cooked and chilled starches such as rice, pasta, and potatoes are encouraged. These foods promote an excellent intake of soluble and insoluble fiber, and resistant starches, which help prevent constipation.
Resistant starches and soluble fiber add bulk to stools, promoting a healthy colon. Insoluble fiber helps stool move through the colon more quickly.
The recommended dietary allowance for fiber is 14 grams for every 1000 calories consumed. For instance, if you eat 1800 calories a day, that will mean eating 25 grams to have an adequate fiber intake and being sure to drink plenty of liquids.
Love your gut! Know how it works
Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is an all-connected tube (as tall as a two-story building) that starts in your mouth and concludes at your anus.
As you bite into food, digestion begins in your mouth. As you swallow, the chewed food will travel down your esophagus in wavelike motions, called peristalsis, and enter your stomach.
Once in your stomach, it will remain for several hours, possibly from six to ten hours, depending on what you ate. The stomach will churn the food and mix it with highly acidic fluids, such as hydrochloric acid. The prepared food mixture then enters your small intestines to absorb nutrients.
The twenty-foot-long small intestines allow for the absorption of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into the blood and lymph.
The surface area of the small intestines is about the size of a tennis court to allow for maximal absorption of nutrients. Many enzymes and hormones are actively working throughout the GI tract to keep your system functioning.
The large intestines (colon) is the next stop. Here the remaining food mixture containing water, electrolytes, dietary fiber, and food wastes will travel on through your system. Water and electrolytes will be absorbed into the bloodstream as the mixture proceeds through this nearly five-foot-long section of the GI tract.
Any soluble fiber present will feed beneficial microorganisms in your colon, causing them to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) to nourish the colon’s lining.
Finally, the stool becomes concentrated with remaining dietary components and bacteria. The fecal matter then collects in the rectum and is excreted through the anus. Travel time through the large intestine usually takes 12-24 hours.
What can you do to help prevent constipation?
To sum up, some measures you can take are to increase your daily activity level, drink plenty of fluids, and eat fiber-rich whole foods. If you habitually practice these things and still experience frequent constipation, speak with your doctor. You may benefit from pelvic floor rehabilitation.