7 tips to get back to your "regular" routine after the holidays
December 3, 2023
The holidays are a busy time that can keep you moving from one event to another, but the season can slow down other types of movements, like those related to your bowels. One key element for colorectal and anorectal health is regularity in bowel movements. Constipation can cause issues, such as hemorrhoids, or it can be a sign of a more serious issues, such as colorectal or anorectal diseases.
If you are experiencing persistent and debilitating constipation, we strongly recommend seeing a doctor who specializes in these issues, such as the ones at Alabama Colon and Rectal Institute. It can also be beneficial to focus on staying regular in your daily life, including during the holidays.
With travel to see family, office parties, and all kinds of treats and goodies, it’s not unusual for healthy diets to veer off course. For some, this can lead to irregular bowel movements and constipation. But now that the holidays are over and we are at the beginning of a new year, it’s time to get back to your regular routine of healthy eating.
What is constipation?
The medical definition for constipation might not be quite what you think it is. It includes symptoms such as:
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Straining to start or complete a bowel movement
- Stool consistency that looks like rocks and pebbles
- A feeling of incomplete emptying
As food passes through your colon, your body absorbs the water from it, and what's left forms into stool. Your muscles move it through the colon to the rectum, and then you pass it. When this movement slows down, your colon draws too much water. Stools get dry and hard to pass, which causes constipation.
Many people don’t know when they’re constipated, and it can easily creep up on you. Depending on the severity, constipation can cause problems like abdominal pain and gas. Excessive straining during bowel movements may also cause hemorrhoids (swollen anal veins), anal fissures (tears), and rectal prolapse (when part of the rectum sticks out through the anus).
For those who overindulged a bit in treats during the holidays without eating enough fruits and vegetables, constipation is typically mild and fairly easy to correct. Here are seven helpful tips that may help:
- Increase fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help improve gut function. If you have bowel sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid high-fructose fruits, such as apples, pears, and watermelon; these can cause gas.
- Get more exercise. Regular exercise can help keep stool moving through the colon.
- Drink more water. One of the biggest contributors to constipation is dehydration. Aim for eight glasses daily, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which can be dehydrating.
- Listen to your body. If your body is telling you that it is ready for a bowel movement, do your best to get to the bathroom as soon as you can. Ignoring the urge can contribute to the development of constipation as the stool material will just get harder as it stays in your rectum. The harder the stool, the more difficult it is to pass.
- Keep a normal schedule. This may have been especially difficult during the holidays, but try to get your body back to a normal schedule. This means regular meal times and bedtime as both of these things will help your digestive system stay on schedule.
- Make time for a good breakfast. For many people, bowel movements are more likely to occur in the morning. You can enhance this by eating a large breakfast and preferably consuming foods that contain healthy fats. Large meals and dietary fat intake can both trigger the release of certain hormones within your body that can lead to the urge for a bowel movement.
- Avoid junk food. We hope you indulged in homemade cookies if you wanted to, but it’s always best to avoid store-bought junk food. Junk food is typically low in fiber, which can contribute to constipation.
Remember that changes in your diet and lifestyle during the holiday season can cause constipation. To get your body back to its regular schedule, focus on the above tips. If you do not see improvement within a few weeks, consider seeing your doctor. You may have developed chronic constipation. This could be due to many reasons, and it’s important that we find the source of the problem and treat it.
Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute is centered around treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus
Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute (also known as the “Butt Hutt” around town!) has been in practice since 1990 as a free-standing, private practice located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. We are known for our efficiency and patient care, in a more relaxed office-based setting. Our doctors are known regionally for their expertise and are active in teaching surgical residents and other physicians. We are also a major sponsor of The Rumpshaker 5K, a race that promotes awareness about colorectal cancer. Check out our website for more information, or give us a call to make an appointment at (205) 458-5000, or email us at [email protected].