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Does constipation become chronic in winter? Is there a link between the cold weather and metabolism?

"If there is less water content than usual, the motility of the intestines is affected, and the stool becomes hard and difficult to pass through the intestines," said Dr Tehsin A. Petiwala, consultant gastroenterologist at Masina Hospital, Mumbai

constipationHere's what to know about chronic constipation in winter (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

During winter, many people experience a slow metabolism that makes it difficult for them to pass their bowels regularly and have a clear gut. As such, many of those with constipation find that the problem becomes chronic, too. Does that mean there is a connection between the chilly weather and metabolism? To dive deeper and understand the phenomena better, we reached out to some experts who elucidated the connection between the two.

What is constipation and what are its causes?

Stressing that constipation is a common gut problem that is usually a result of “unhealthy and untimely food habits” that slow down the movement of stool in the digestive tract and allow for excess absorption of water, Dr S T Gopal, senior consultant gastroenterologist and transplant hepatologist, Apollo Hospitals, Sheshadripuram, Bangalore said that it results in the formation of hard and dehydrated stools that are often difficult to pass.

“In winter, however, constipation is mainly due to dehydration or even excessive consumption of beverages like coffee and tea, and also alcohol. There is also a tendency to consume fried and junk foods due to excessive hunger in winter, which can make the stools hard,” Dr Gopal told indianexpress.com.

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He added that due to low temperatures, the body’s metabolic process could also slow down a little causing sluggish bowel movements. “Other factors like cold toilet seats also may account for people to postpone bowel evacuations,” he noted.

Generally, people feel less thirsty during winter and tend to drink a lesser amount of water. “So, if there is less water consumption than usual, the motility of the intestines is affected and thus the stool becomes hard and difficult to pass,” said Dr Tehsin A. Petiwala, consultant gastroenterologist at Masina Hospital, Mumbai.

Another reason is the increase in appetite of people that can trigger overeating and contribute to various causes and symptoms of constipation, Dr Gopal pointed out. Agreed Dr Petiwala, and said, “Fast foods contain both fats and proteins. These foods also contribute to the imbalance of the gut microbial flora and thus can result in constipation.”

The human metabolism is complex and it varies; find out what you can do to boost it. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Symptoms

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Constipation affects every person differently, Dr Gopal said. “Some may have recurrent acne, some may not lose weight, while some feel a nagging headache,” Dr Gopal noted.

Prevention and treatment

Dr Gopal listed some preventive measures

*A healthy adult should consume about three litres of water during winters, especially warm water to improve digestion.

*Consume fruits like grapes, guava, oranges, papaya, banana, watermelon, and grapefruit. These fruits are rich in dietary fibre and aid in regular bowel movements.

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*Chew food properly as it makes the breaking down of food easier.

*Include leafy greens and salad in daily food intake. These foods are high in nutritional value.

*Use spices like cumin, carom, black pepper, fennel seeds. and cardamom in moderation.

*Minimise junk and fried foods.

*Avoid consumption of alcohol and excessive caffeinated drinks.

Emphasising that both dietary and lifestyle factors are the causes behind chronic constipation, registered dietitian Garima Goyal listed out some natural remedies that can help.

– Having a glass of warm milk at night with a teaspoon of ghee is a great remedy to pass constipated stool.
– Soak one teaspoon basil seeds at night and consume this water in the morning on an empty stomach.
– Also, soaking 2-3 figs in water overnight and consuming it the first thing in the morning clears the colon of the waste.
Isabgol with warm water is a great way to ease the passing of stool.

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Apart from these, asanas like malasana i.e. sitting in squat position, and vajrasana i.e. sitting on the knees, also help pass bowels smoothly, said Goyal.

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First published on: 30-11-2022 at 16:30 IST
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