Last updated: July 22, 2019
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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Get back your natural flow with our guide to constipation.
Constipation tops the list when it comes the most common gastrointestinal problems. It occurs when stool moves slowly through the digestive tract and becomes hard and dry.
According to HealthlinkBC, you are experiencing constipation if you have two or fewer bowel movements each week or you are dealing with problems such as straining, not being able to empty the bowels, and inability to pass stool until you manually apply pressure to rectum, at least 25% of the time.
Is it Chronic Constipation?
Some people experience more constipation that others and it seems to last longer. You could be experiencing chronic constipation if you have fewer, painful bowel movements over a span of several weeks.
To ascertain if you are dealing with chronic constipation, see if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms. If you are passing fewer than three stools per week over a significant period of time, straining to pass stool, or feeling like there is blockage in your rectum preventing you from passing stools, you may be dealing with chronic constipation.
Usually it is treatable with changes to your diet and lifestyle but if you are struggling to regulate your bowel movements, consult with your doctor to get medications that can provide and relief and get a check-up done to rule out any other underlying conditions.
What Causes Constipation?
The most common cause of constipation is lack of fiber consumption. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and a decrease in fiber intake can have a significant impact on your body’s ability to effectively pass stools. Other common factors that cause constipation include stress, poor diet, and inadequate water intake.
Sometimes, constipation can be a result of a blockage in the colon or rectum which can hinder bowel movements.
Hormonal imbalance can also result in constipation. Some conditions and diseases including diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, hypothyroidism and pregnancy can create hormonal imbalance and consequently cause constipation. Colorectal cancer is another condition that can cause constipation but in that case constipation is accompanied by other symptoms including blood tinged stools and weight loss.
Lastly, research has revealed that the prevalence of constipation can increase with age. It showed that the prevalence of constipation in individuals over 65 years of age, was 26% for women and 16% for men. However, this percentage increased to 34% for women and 26% for men in those who were over 84 years of age.
How to Relieve the Symptoms and Prevent Constipation
There are a lot of natural ways in which you can tackle constipation problems. Some small changes to your diet, lifestyle, and routine can help you in preventing constipation as well.
Firstly, increase your water intake. Staying hydrated can help you in avoiding constipation as water loosens up the stools and helps them pass more easily. You should aim to consume at least eight glasses of water everyday.
When it comes to diet, try and increase your intake of high-fibre. According to The National Institute of Diabetes, and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, depending on the age and gender, adults should get 25 to 31 grams of fiber a day. You can get the required amount of fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans, barley and nuts.
It is also important to listen to your body. Use the bathroom when you feel the urge to do so. If you ignore the cues your body is giving you, the urge might pass and your stool may become more difficult to pass later on.
Additionally, take your time and do not strain when having a bowel movement. This would cause further problems such as causing the veins around your anus to swell due to the pressure.
If natural remedies are taking some time to work, you can also consider over the counter aids to provide relief. These include adding processed or synthetic fibre to your diet, trying stool softener, or using a rectal glycerin suppository.
When should I consult a doctor?
While these remedies usually work, it is important to consult a doctor when constipation lasts longer than three weeks, bowel movements are painful or constipation is accompanied by other symptoms.
If you have blood in your stool or are experiencing weight loss, consult with a doctor immediately as this can be a sign of another medical condition which may be causing the constipation.
If you have any other questions regarding constipation or general digestive health, feel free to chat with one of our doctors who are available 24/7 to address your queries and provide genuine medical advice.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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