Constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer. Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea and is commonly caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulosis, and medications.
Constipation can also be referred to as unsatisfactory defecation characterized by infrequent stools or difficult stool passage. They include straining, a sense of difficulty passing stool, incomplete evacuation, hard/lumpy stools, prolonged time to pass stool or need for manual maneuvers.
However, constipation is something that everyone has likely experienced at one time or another. But for some people, constipation can be more than just an occasional event. These people may experience Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation (IBS-C).
Constipation is not a disease, but may be a symptom of another medical problem. Constipation may last for a short or long time.
Symptoms Of Constipation
Constipation may be considered chronic if you have experienced two or more of these symptoms for the last three months.
Signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include:
- Passing fewer than three stools a week
- Having lumpy or hard stools
- Straining to have bowel movements
- Feeling as though there is a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements
- Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum
- Needing help to empty your rectum, such as using your hands to press on your
- Abdomen and using a finger to remove stool from your rectum
- Belly bloating
- Abdominal cramps.
- Having to sit on the toilet for much longer than usual
Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience unexplained and persistent changes in your bowel habits.
Causes Of Constipation
Many factors can dispose a person to constipation. Some can easily be prevented by changing habits and lifestyle. Often, the cause has to do with physiological problems or diseases. Here are the common causes of constipation.
Medications that cause constipation
A frequently over-looked cause of constipation is medications. The most common medications that cause include antidepressants (especially SSRIs like Prozac), anti-anxiety drugs, heartburn drugs and blood pressure medication. Painkillers prescription or over the counter can also cause constipation.
“These medications bind to the same receptors in the stomach, blunting the whole digestive system as well as your pain,” explains Dr Iqbal. Don’t use painkillers continuously for longer than 30 days. Dr Iqbal says you should address the underlying injury or find alternative ways to treat your pain.
Bad Bathroom Habit
Bowel movements are under voluntary control. This means that the normal urge you feel when you need to have one can be suppressed. Although occasionally it is appropriate to suppress an urge to defecate (for example, when a bathroom is not available), doing this too frequently can lead to a disappearance of urges and result in constipation.
When you are constipated, it is natural to reach for laxatives. But don’t rely on them for long-term use, over long periods of time triggers the nerve cells that release chemicals that tell your colon it is time to move a stool become depleted.
An association has been shown between the chronic use of these products and damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon, possibly resulting in the condition.
It is not clear, however, whether the products have caused the damage or whether the damage existed prior to the use of them. Nevertheless, because of the possibility that stimulant products can damage the colon, most experts recommend that they be used as a last resort after non-stimulant products have failed.
Ignoring the urge
If you have to go, go. If you hold in a bowel movement, for whatever reason, you may be inviting a bout of constipation. People who repeatedly ignore the urge to move their bowels may eventually stop feeling the urge.
Not enough fiber and fluids in the diet
A diet too low in fiber and fluids and too high in fats can con-tribute to constipation. Fiber absorbs water and causes stools to be larger, softer, and easier to pass. Increasing fiber intake helps cure constipation in many people, but those with more severe constipation sometimes find that increasing fiber makes their constipation worse and leads to gassiness and discomfort.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Some people who suffer from IBS have sluggish bowel movements, straining during bowel movements, and abdominal discomfort. Constipation may be the predominant symptom, or it may alternate with diarrhea. Cramping, gas, and bloating are also common.
Lack Of Exercise
Not exercising often enough can cause digestive problems that may lead to constipation. Exercise helps stimulate intestinal activity, which keeps food waste moving through your digestive system. In fact, exercises that focus on toning your abdominal muscles can even help with bowel movements.
On the other hand, however, too much exercise can also cause constipation. Exercising causes your body to sweat, which helps regulate body temperature. As a result, your body may need more water, which your intestines may try to recover from stool moving through your digestive system. Constipation can occur when the poop becomes hard and compact, and unable to pass easily through your rectum.
Make sure you are properly hydrated before, during and after exercise.
Life Changes Or Daily Routine Changes
Constipation can happen when your life or daily routine changes. For example, if you become pregnant, as you get older, when you travel, when you ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, if you change your medicines, if you change how much and what you eat and many more your bowel movements can change
Hormones can affect bowel movements. For example too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and too much parathyroid hormone (by raising the calcium levels in the blood). At the time of a woman’s menstrual periods, estrogen and progesterone levels are high. However, this is rarely a prolonged condition. High levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy also cause constipation.
Diseases that can cause constipa-tion include neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, or multiple sclerosis; metabolic and endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease; bowel cancer; and diverticulitis.
A number of systemic conditions, like scleroderma, can also cause constipation. In addition, intestinal obstructions, caused by scar tissue (adhesions) from past surgery or strictures of the colon or rectum, can compress, squeeze, or narrow the intestine and rectum, causing constipation.
Complications Of Constipation
People who have constipation that lasts for a short time usually do not have complications. However, long-lasting or chronic constipation may have complications which includes
- anal fissures
- rectal prolapse
- fecal impaction
The following can help you avoid developing chronic constipation.
- Include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, including beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and bran.
- Eat fewer foods with low amounts of fiber such as processed foods, and dairy and meat products.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Stay as active as possible and try to get regular exercise.
- Try to manage stress.
- Don’t ignore the urge to pass stool.
- Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements, especially after a meal.
- Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
- Make sure children who begin to eat solid foods get plenty of fiber in their diets.
Treatment/Remedies for Constipation
Treatment of constipation depends on the underlying cause and the duration that it has been present. Measures that may help include drinking enough fluids, eating more fiber, and exercise and many other.
Not only does regular exercise reduce the amount of time it takes for stool to pass through the large intestine, it also acts as a stress reliever. Remember, psychological stress is one major cause of constipation. A variety of exercises can help, but there are certain yoga poses that can be particularly effective at getting things moving.
Soluble fiber helps water remain in your stool so that it does not become hard. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools, which speeds up the movement through your bowels. Getting a combination of both is important. Fortunately, most whole, unprocessed fiber-rich foods contain a combination of both. Some of the best choices include seeds, especially ground flax seed, organic berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts, prunes, figs, and psyllium husk.
Be dehydrated regularly can make you become constipated. To prevent this, it is important for you to drink enough water and stay hydrated. Studies have found out sparkling water to be more effective than ta water at relieving constipation. This include people with chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Sesame seeds make great home remedies for constipation. The oily composition of sesame seeds works to moisturize the intestines, which can help if dry stools are a problem and provide constipation relief. Add the seeds to cereals or salads for crunch, or pulverize them in a coffee grinder and sprinkle on food like a seasoning
The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a stimulant to your digestive system and can help flush toxins from your body, providing constipation relief. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into a glass of water every morning, or add lemon to tea; you may find that the refreshingly tart water not only acts as a natural remedy to your constipation but also that it helps you drink more water each day, which will improve your long-term digestion.
Coffee can stimulate your colon and speed up your trip to the bathroom. Other hot drinks work as home remedies for constipation too: Herbal tea or a cup of hot water with a little lemon juice (a natural laxative) or honey may stimulate your colon as well. Coffee is also a diuretic, however, so make sure to keep drinking water or your constipation could become
These fiber-rich fruits are a go-to home remedy for getting your digestion back on track. Three prunes have 3 grams of fiber, and they also contain a compound that triggers the intestinal contraction that makes you want to go. Another great dried fruit choice is figs, which may not cause as much bloating as prunes.
This home remedy for constipation has been handed down for generations. One of the primary uses for castor oil is as a laxative; take one to two teaspoons on an empty stomach and you should see results in about eight hours. Why? A component in the oil breaks down into a substance that stimulates your large and small intestines.
Some people claim that consuming baking soda helps ease constipation by pulling water into your digestive tract and promoting muscle contractions. When it combines with stomach acid, baking soda also produces gas and causes you to burp. Some people claim this provides relief from some constipation symptoms.
According to El Camino Hospital, soaking in a bath with baking soda may help relieve rectal pain associated with constipation. It may also relax your anal sphincter, which may help you produce a bowel movement. To prepare a bath with baking soda, fill your tub with warm water and add 2 ounces of baking soda. Soak in it for 20 minutes.
However, you should see a doctor if your symptoms do not go away with self-care or you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer.
- bleeding from your rectum
- blood in your stool
- constant pain in your abdomen
- inability to pass gas
- lower back pain
- losing weight without trying