Constipation is one of those problems that most people experience at some point in their life but rarely talk about. It is most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States. Most often than not constipation affects women and the elderly, however everyone is susceptible to have constipation. Constipation is a symptom of disorder of bowel function, which makes bowel movements infrequent and difficult. Most often constipation is a temporary problem however there is a small percentage of cases where constipation can lead to more serious problems.
What is Constipation?
Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or the muscle contractions, which cause a bowel movement, are slow and sluggish. At these times it makes going to the bathroom difficult, painful and less frequent. During constipation the stool becomes hard and dry which makes it more difficult to pass. Everyone’s body has its own elimination schedule based on dietary and lifestyle habits, however if you go three days or longer without a bowel movement you are constipated.
Symptoms of Constipation
Although, people who have experienced constipation can tell when they are constipated, for someone who hasn’t experienced constipation it maybe painful, awkward and scary. Constipation normally causes infrequent and difficult bowel movements. You may have to strain during elimination or have incomplete evacuation. Stool will be hard and dry. Abdominal pain and swelling can occur as well as pain and vomiting. Having less than two bowel movement a week is a definite sign of constipation.
Causes of Constipation
There are several causes of constipation, which range from diet, medication, lifestyle and even disease. However the most common reasons for constipation include inadequate water and fiber intake. Without an adequate amount of water the body becomes dehydrated. Additionally, insufficient activity, exercise or mobility can cause constipation too. Dairy products such as milk can be the cause of constipation some individuals, while an irregular diet can cause others to have constipation. Stress and depression have an effect on constipation and disease like hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions can cause constipation. Using laxatives, antacids, and other prescription medications such as pain medications, narcotics, and antidepressants have been shown to cause constipation. Other causes include eating disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), pregnancy and colon cancer.
Most treatments include diet and lifestyle changes. Adding 2-4 extra glasses of water per day, as well as drinking warm liquids in the morning to help elimination. Eating fruits and vegetables and a high fiber diet will help to eliminate constipation. A doctor may recommend a stool softener or laxative in some cases however they should only be taken as recommended because they can weaken the bowel muscles. If constipation persists longer than two weeks with no reprieve a doctor should be consulted. As well as if you experience unintended weight loss, blood in your stool or severe pain during a bowel movement.