Constipation is considered one of the most common digestive problems in the world. Individuals suffering from frequent constipation usually have bowel movements that are less than three times in a week with dry and hard stools.
Causes of constipation
The responsibility of the colon is to absorb water and salt from food as it passes via the digestive tract which eventually forms into stool. The muscles of the colon propel the waste via the rectum to be eliminated from the body. Once the stool stays too long in the colon, they will harden and difficult to pass out.
Poor diet is one of the causes of constipation since adequate water intake and dietary fiber are required to keep the stools soft. Other causes include changes in routine, stress and even conditions that slow down the muscle contractions of the colon or if you delay the urge to go.
- Diet that is low in fiber
- Lack of exercise
- Delaying the impulse/urge to defecate
- Changes in the routine
- Intake of certain medications such as pain medications and antacids
Underlying medical problems that causes constipation
- Conditions such as stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and lupus
- Problems with the rectum or colon including diverticulosis, intestinal obstruction and irritable bowel syndrome
- Anal fissures or hemorrhoids
- Misuse or overuse of laxatives
- Hormonal problems including an underactive thyroid gland
Symptoms of constipation
Take note that the normal bowel movement of each individual tends to vary. Some usually go three times in a day while others go three times in a week. Nevertheless, if an individual is suffering from constipation, the following symptoms are experienced.
- Passing dry and hard stools
- Less than three bowel movements in a week
- Sensation of fullness even after a bowel movement
- Straining during bowel movement
Who are at risk for constipation?
Both poor diet and lack of exercise pose as major risk factors for constipation. Nevertheless, there are certain factors that increase the risk for the condition.
- Pregnant women – due to hormonal changes and the pressure on the intestines from the developing baby.
- Elderly individuals who are 65 years old or older – the elderly are less physically active and have underlying diseases. Even their diet that lacks fiber can result to the condition.
- Individuals who are confined in bed – those who are suffering from certain medical conditions such as spinal cord injuries usually have bowel problems.
- Women and children – women are prone to frequent constipation than men while children are commonly affected than the adults.
Treatment and preventing constipation
Modifying the diet and performing regular exercise can help prevent constipation. There are also other ways to deal with constipation.
- Drink 1.5 up to 2 quarts of fluids on a daily basis to hydrate the body
- Add foods rich in fiber to the diet
- Cut down consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol
- Limit intake of low-fiber foods such as milk, meat, cheese and processed foods
- Perform moderate exercise every week such as biking, swimming or walking
- Avoid delaying once you feel the urge to have a bowel movement
Most cases of constipation are mild and can be easily treated with modifications in the diet and exercise. Nevertheless, if chronic constipation that is accompanied with changes in bowel movements is experienced, it is important to consult your doctor right away.