Constipation is one of the most common problems experienced by everyone. It affects 4 million individuals in America alone prompting 2.5 million to visit their physicians at some time. It is described as a condition wherein an individual have fewer than three bowel movements within a week.
Although occasional constipation is quite common, several people suffer from chronic constipation which interferes with their daily activities. This chronic condition causes excessive straining during bowel movements, discomfort and other manifestations.
How to know if you’re constipated?
Occasional constipation does not usually require a trip to a doctor. Nonetheless, professional advice may be necessary for a persistent problem. Common signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- Excessive straining while having bowel movements
- Hard or lumpy stools
- A sensation that one can’t totally empty stool from the rectum
- A feeling as though there is something blocking the rectum which prevents bowel movements or completely empty stool
- The need to perform some assistance to help empty the rectum (e.g. using hands to press abdomen, emptying rectum by using a finger to remove stool)
- Having three or fewer bowel movements within a week
Constipation may already be identified as chronic if an individual experiences two or more of these manifestations in the last three months.
When to see a doctor
One may need to visit a doctor or make an appointment with a healthcare provider if persistent and unsolved bowel habit changes occur.
How the colon works?
The colon is one of the most important waste elimination systems in the human body. If it’s not functioning optimally, several manifestations may occur which includes constipation. The colon works right after an individual ingests food. The food moves along the colon. It will then absorb water from the ingested food, collect the waste product (now known as stool) and move it toward the rectum optimizing a series of muscle contraction for elimination. Normally, these activities are efficient, unless some events occur which may cause it to decelerate. Constipation occurs when the contractions of its muscle slow down prompting the stool to move slowly as well or when the colon absorbs too much water leading to lumpy, small, dry and hard stools.
Common causes of constipation
Being knowledgeable of the common causes of constipation is important as it can assist in finding ways to avoid this uncomfortable condition. Dealing with this malady is important – ignoring it can only lead to more problems later on. Some common causes of constipation that everybody should know about include:
In all aspects of health, whatever you put in your body always matter. Individuals who eat too much fatty foods such as eggs, meats, cheese and other dairy products while having inadequate intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits my eventually suffer from constipation. Adopting a fiber-rich diet could help in having a fully functional digestive system.
Inadequate fluid/water intake
Approximately 50 to 75% of the human body is comprised of water. Hence, there is a need to constantly replenish this amount through intake of un-caffeinated liquids. Fluid intake is necessary particularly because the colon absorbs water. Drinking water frequently all throughout the day can help in making the stool soft for easy passage and elimination.
Linking stress to constipation may appear far-fetched, however health experts believe otherwise. Stress may cause an individual to do unhealthy things. A stressed person may not be able to sleep well, eat a balanced diet, drink adequate amounts of water or fluid, perform exercises and may even ignore urges to defecate. All these behaviors caused by stress create a lifestyle that makes a person highly at risk to constipation and bowel irregularity.
Over the counter and prescribed medications may also cause constipation. Some drugs cause undesirable effects most of which includes symptoms that involve the gastrointestinal system (e.g. constipation, nausea, and diarrhea). Certain medications that may cause constipation includes those that are indicated for hypertension (e.g. clonidine), ulcer (e.g. sucralfate), pain (e.g. codeine, meperidine, oxycodone, tramadol), cholesterol-lowering medications (e.g. cholestyramine), iron supplements, and antianxiety (e.g. amitrytiline). In some cases, the human body adjusts with these medications leading to occasional constipation. If constipation becomes persistent while taking these drugs, patients must consult their healthcare provider for any recommendation or changes in therapeutic regimen.
People with decreased physical activities often find themselves unable to defecate in as much as those with active lifestyle. Sedentary or decreased physical activities decrease the normal functioning of the digestive system. Note that the colon uses its muscles to move body wastes towards the rectum. This is also the primary reason why individuals who are bedridden, hospitalized or unable to perform exercises usually experience occasional constipation.
Another possible cause of constipation includes certain medical condition such as hypothyroidism, childbirth and diabetes. These conditions negatively influence the body’s normal rhythm resulting to occasional constipation. Neurological problems affecting the muscles involved in the rectum and colon such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and autonomic neuropathy may also cause constipation.
Ignoring body’s signals
An important possible cause of occasional constipation includes ignoring the body’s cues such as urges to defecate, bloatedness, abdominal discomfort or incomplete bowel movement. Addressing these conditions while they occur can help prevent constipation.
Paying attention to body cues, increasing intake of water and fiber-enriched foods, exercising, avoiding stress and medications can help in preventing occasional constipation. However, if this condition persists, one must pay attention as this may indicate hemorrhoids or other more serious problems. If this happens, consulting a healthcare provider is highly recommended.