Constipation – Everything You Need to Know

Constipation

If you have constipation, you are not the only one. Almost 2.5 million people face this condition each year. Older age people or persons having slow metabolism are also at greater risk of developing constipation. Similarly, constipation during pregnancy is also very common due to hormonal imbalances in the body. 

What is constipation?

Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems all around the world, including the USA. Constipation occurs when stool becomes hard and difficult to pass. It occurs due to insufficient intake of fiber. Certain foods may also cause constipation. You need to immediately see your doctor if the conditions last for more than a week or you are experiencing pain or blood in the stool.

Symptoms

The bowel movements may vary from person to person. If you are experiencing the following symptoms: it means you are constipated.

  • Hardly 2-3 bowel movements per week
  • Hard stools
  • Severe pain during bowel movements
  • Unsatisfactory feeling even after passing stool

You need to immediately see a doctor – if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Bloody stool
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Lower back pain
  • Sudden weight loss

Causes of constipation

Before leaving the body, our stool remains in the colon. In the colon, water is absorbed from the digested food. If excessive water is absorbed from this digested food: it causes constipation. Sometimes, if stool stays longer in the colon, it becomes hard and difficult to pass.

Lack of fiber in the diet and insufficient intake of water may lead to constipation. Both fiber and water are essential to soften the stools. Fiber can be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber gets dissolved in water and forms a gel-like material. Insoluble fiber also gets attached to the stool and causes softening of stool.

Stress may also contribute to constipation by slowing down muscle contraction. It delays the urge to poop.

Following are the common causes of constipation:

  • Dehydration or insufficient fluid intake
  • Low fiber diet
  • Low activity level
  • Change in routine
  • Certain medications may also contribute to it
  • People aged above 60 are at greater risk of developing constipation
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal changes in body
  • Stress 
  • Resisting the need to defecate
  • Some underlying issues with rectum or colon

Complications due to constipation

Hardening of stool may cause the following complications:

Hemorrhoids – swollen veins in the rectum.

Diverticulitis – formation of small pouches that push the weak colon wall outward. It causes bleeding, inflammation, and other complications of the intestine.

Fecal impaction – Too much stool retention in the colon or rectum

Stress urinary incontinence is the abrupt leakage of urine from the bladder as a result of increased pressure on weaker muscles. The muscles get weak due to chronic constipation and strain on pelvic muscles.

Treatment

Adopt the following practices to avoid constipation:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. 
  • Limit intake of milk, cheese, meat, white flour, and rice.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Stay active throughout the week. Do 30 to 60 minutes of swimming, walking, or running at least five times a week.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks.
  • If you need to pass the stool, do not put it off any longer. The more you wait, the harder your stool becomes.
  • Take your time to pass the stool.
  • Ask your doctor to train yourself to pass the stool after breakfast.
  • Do not use the laxatives excessively.

In case, home remedies are not working for you – talk to your doctor. Your health care provider may prescribe you the following medications:

  • Laxatives
  • Lubricants
  • Stool softeners
  • Fiber supplements
  • Enema
  • Surgery for blockage removal

Prevention

Adopting lifestyle changes, dietary habits, and increased physical activity levels are the appropriate and fastest ways to avoid constipation.

  • Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid foods that constipate you
  • Raise your knees while sitting on the toilet seat
  • Avoid alcohol, soft drinks, and caffeine
  • Avoid stress
  • Try to pass the stool daily at the same time and train your muscles accordingly

Constipation is a common condition that is caused due to lack of fiber in the diet. People at an older age are also at a higher risk of developing this severe condition. Adopting lifestyle and dietary changes helps you treat this condition. However, if your symptoms are severe, immediately talk to your doctor. 

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