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Are you constantly constipated? Find out why

Updated on January 3, 2014

What really is constipation

For us non-medical people, constipation simply means having hard stools, infrequent stools, difficulty in moving out stools or an uncomfortable feeling of incomplete bowel movement. There are actually different types of constipation which should be treated differently according to its underlying causes.

In medical terms, constipation means fewer than 3 stools per week while severe constipation is defined as less than 1 stool per week.

Misconception about constipation

Though it would be good for the body to move out stools regularly everyday, it is not however abnormal to not be able to do so. In fact, as we age, the frequency of our bowel movements generally decreases.

Studies show that only half of people in a group have this regular pattern of one bowel movement a day. Most of us have irregular pattern, meaning, no regular bowel movement everyday or not having the same number of bowel movements per day. Some adults might have 3 to 21 times of bowel movements per week. All of these patterns though would still be considered normal.

Even you are not able to have bowel movement for 2 to 3 days, it will not bring about physical discomfort, perhaps only mental distress for some people who are very conscious of it.

There is a popular belief that when bowel movement is infrequent, toxins will accumulate and may cause cancer. As there is no medical evidence to prove that, it is not yet a fact.

How is constipation diagnosed?

Most patients would only need a few basic medical exam/laboratory tests such as physical examination, blood test and abdominal x-ray. Ofcourse, looking at the patient’s medical history is first in the medical check-up routine.

Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, other modern tests or methods can be utilized as follows:

- Barium enema (lower GI series)

- Colonic transit studies

- Magnetic resonance imaging defecography

- Ano-rectal motility studies

- Colonic-motility studies

It is crucial to identify whether the patient’s constipation is acute (recent on-set) or chronic (long-duration) because it maybe a symptom of a more serious disease.

Seek for an immediate medical assessment if your constipation comes with other worrisome symptoms such as rectal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and involuntary weight loss.

On a lighter note, some chronic constipation can be relieved by simple remedies and medication.

Causes of constipation

It most often occurs when there is a slow passage or movement of stool through the colon. This can happen due to:

  • Poor bowel movement as frequent suppression of urge to defecate
  • Low fiber diets
  • Abuse or prolonged use of stimulant laxatives, some narcotic pain medications, some anti-depressants, some anti-convulsants, iron supplements, calcium channel blocking drugs & aluminum-containing antacids.
  • Hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism or having high levels of estrogen & progesterone during menstrual periods or pregnancy.
  • Diseases of other parts of the body that also affects the colon such as:
  1. diabetes, scleroderma, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, Hirschspring’s disease, Chagas disease
  2. central nervous system diseases – Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries
  3. colonic inertia
  4. pelvic floor dysfunction

Relief and Treatment for Constipation

Depending on the cause of constipation, the following can be used as relief or treatment:

  1. Fiber supplements
  2. Different types of laxatives
  3. Enemas
  4. Suppositories
  5. Exercise
  6. Biofeedback training
  7. Electrical pacing
  8. Surgery.

To know the specific treatment appropriate for your type of constipation, please consult your doctor.


How to Prevent Constipation the Natural Way

As we often heard, “prevention is always better than cure” and the best way to prevent it is to do it the natural way and there are basically three ways:

1. Increase fiber in your diet by eating more fiber-rich fruits & vegetables, wheat, oats and others.

Fiber is a material produced by plants that is undigested by our gastrointestinal tract which add bulk (volume) to our stool which then triggers the colon to move the stool out of our body. Many types of fiber binds & retains the water within our intestine which softens our stool and makes it easier for the colon to move out our stool.

However high-fiber diet has a natural side-effect too. An increased consumption of fiber may cause flatulence or increased gas in our alimentary canal which may cause you to fart more frequently than usual. Gas is produced by the bacteria (normally present in our colon) which digested the fibers to an extent. All fibers can cause flatulence no matter what their source are. Different types of fiber may cause different amount of gas depending on the ability of the bacteria that is present in an individual. Thus the right type of fiber that can help regulate bowel movement without causing too much flatulence varies from person to person. And it can only be discovered through trial and error. Try different natural sources of fiber and observe what’s proper for you.

2. Drink 8 glasses or more water every day.

Drink enough or lots of water to avoid dehydration which results to reduced intestinal waters that may cause hardening of stools and makes us difficult to defecate.

3. Exercise regularly.

Not only will exercise burn our excess fat, it helps regulate our entire system too.

Check these videos below.

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© 2013 Caroline Guillermo


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