What Is Constipation?


Most people experience the discomfort of constipation at some point in their lives, while women and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Constipation is a condition which means that you are unable to empty your bowels as normal, or passing painful, hard feces. Constipation is typically a symptom of an unhealthy diet or a diet without sufficient fiber, but it can also be a side effect of some medications or more serious, underlying medical conditions.

One of the most common treatments of constipation is through the use of laxatives. Constipation can be a serious concern, whilst it effects most people at some stage and the vast majority are only affected for a short period of time, there can be issues if the condition continues for an extended period of time.

What Is Constipation?

Constipation present as infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, straining to pass fecal matter or the feeling of not completely emptying the bowels. The amount of bowel motions that a person can expect in a day often decreases with age and most adults can expect to have between 3 and 21 times in a week. Generally speaking one bowel movement per day is average for a healthy adult but there is no medical reason that dictates a particular number of motions per day.

Constipation typically presents as fewer than three bowel motions in a week, with severe constipation being less than one motion per week. Mild constipation typically only causes discomfort and may cause emotional distress, but this discomfort can become unbearable if the condition becomes severe and may require medical advice.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Constipation?

Symptoms of constipation can vary from person to person but typical signs of constipation include:

  • Irregular and infrequent bowel motion i.e. passing less than 3 stools per week
  • Straining to make bowel motions
  • Hard or lumpy stools
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel motions
  • The feeling of an obstacle or blockage in your rectum
  • Requiring abdominal pressure to complete a bowel movement

Chronic constipation is when you have experienced at least two of these symptoms for an extended period of time, typically 3 months.

When to See a Doctor

You should seek medical advice for constipation if you experience:

  • Unexpected and unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Continued symptoms or extreme discomfort

Doctors may prescribe laxatives to relieve constipation, and there are over the counter laxatives that can be used, but extended use of these can cause problems such as laxative dependency. Diet and lifestyle changes should be employed before or in addition to the use laxatives.

What Are the Causes & Risk Factors of Constipation?

Causes

Description

Not enough fiber

Most people do not get the recommended 18 grams of fiber per day to maintain regular bowel movement. Fiber can be ingested through fruits, cereals, vegetables and whole meal bread.

Not enough fluid

2 liters or 8 cups of water per day is recommended to keep bowel motions regular. This does not mean that all of the 2 liters or 8 cups needs to be water, it can be other fluids but avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages and they can have a dehydrating or nutrient depleting effect.

Specific medicine

Some medicines can cause constipation. Check the side effects of your medication and look for constipation.

Medical condition

An underactive thyroid or irritable bowel syndrome can cause constipation.

Pregnancy

Changes in the body during pregnancy can cause constipation. The body may require more fluid and fiber, the baby may be putting more pressure on the digestive system and hormone changes can also have an effect on bowel and gut motions.

Idiopathic

Some people simply have underactive bowels, but this can only be determined by eliminating or addressing all other possible causes.

What Are the Treatments for Constipation?

Constipation can be treated in a variety of different ways and the treatment largely depends on the cause.

Medical Treatments

Doctors or pharmacists can prescribe, or recommend, different kinds of laxatives depending on the preferences of the patient, symptoms presented, medications and medical conditions, cost or the desire to avoid certain side effects. The most common laxatives recommended are:

  • A bulk forming laxative is usually the first laxative to try due to its limited side effects
  • Osmotic laxatives are often used if bulk forming laxatives do not work in addition to, or instead of the original bulk forming laxative
  • If there is still no success in relieving the problem, a stimulant laxative may be added
  • If fecal loading or impaction occurs, there may be the need to use high doses of macrogol osmotic laxatives under supervision of a doctor or healthcare professional

Use of any laxatives for extended periods of time, particularly those that are not bulk-forming can result in dependency on such laxatives in order to make bowel motions. Consequently extended use of laxatives is not advised.

Life Style Changes

Lifestyle and diet changes should always be the first port of call when treating constipation. Here are a few key steps you can take to encourage more regular and frequent bowl motions without the use of medication:

Method

Description

Eat foods with plenty of fibers

Switch to whole meal grains and breads, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and make sure you are getting multiple serves of grains and cereals a day. You can also use dietary fiber supplements if you need but altering your diet is the most effective and risk-free way.

Drink a lot

Drink 8 cups of water a day to keep you hydrated and keep your stool soft and easy to pass.

Take regular exercise

30 minutes a day walking is all you need to maintain good gut health. A sedentary lifestyle can have a debilitating effect on your bowels.

Follow the need of toilet

Don’t restrain yourself from going to the toilet. Holding in feces can lead to impaction and blockages. When you need to go, go!

Watch the video to get some home remedies for constipation:

 
 
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