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Are You Suffering With Constipation? What Is Constipation? What Causes It And How To Prevent It?

Updated on June 29, 2016

Don't Strain! Be A Happy Monkey

What Causes Constipation?
What Causes Constipation? | Source

What is Constipation?

Constipation is a condition whereby the bowel movements are infrequent and/or are incomplete.

The feces become hard and are both painful and difficult to expel in their entirety. Pressure builds up in the colon and the muscles can become over worked pushing the feces along, causing further discomfort in the lower abdominal area which often results in cramping of the abdominal muscles.

Constipation must not be confused with what one might think are too few bowel movements. This not the same thing at all.

All bodies are different: what is normal for one is not normal for another.

Having said that, fewer than three bowel movements a week is less than what is considered normal for the average body.

The Colon: A Normal Bowel Movement

FIG 1 Normal Movement
FIG 1 Normal Movement

The Colon: Inflamed With Chronic Constipation

FIG 2  Inflamed Colon
FIG 2 Inflamed Colon

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation is caused when the colon absorbs too much water from the food or stool passing through. The more water absorbed from the stool the dryer and harder the stool becomes, thusly the stool's movement along the colon becomes very slow. The slower the stool travels through the colon the more water the colon absorbs. At this point constipation can become extremely painful and a blockage may occur. The muscles in the colon may be contracting slower than normal, causing the movement of the stool through the colon to slow down, losing more water. The pictures on the right hand side show a typically normal bowel movement Fig 1, and chronic constipation Fig 2. Diarrhoea often follows chronic constipation and can be equally distressing. Constipation is no laughing matter and can cause serious pain and anguish for the sufferer. Straining to poop can also cause hemroids (swollen veins in the anal canal) which are very uncomfortable and often very painful resulting in a sore posterior. It is very important not to strain, albeit easier said than done. Constipation is quite common and everyone will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Knowing what causes constipation, however, can help to prevent it. Prevention in this incident really is better than the cure.

Is Constipation Ruining Your Life?

How does constipation affect your everyday life?

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Factors That Contribute to Constipation

  • Lack of Physical Activity:

Older people and pregnant women are more likely to suffer with constipation. The reason for this is very often due to the fact that older people and pregnant women tend on average to be less active. It is a well known fact that activity increases the metabolism thusly increasing the activity in our bodies.

Walking for as little as 20 minutes a day can have a radical impact on constipation.

  • Drugs And Supplements:

Numerous medications and supplements from painkillers to antacids to diuretics can encourage constipation.

Always inform yourself of the full side affects of any pills or solutions you take orally. You may cure one aliment only to find yourself suffering twice as much with another.

  • Diet:

A bad diet is one of the main causes of constipation; mainly one lacking in fiber. Foods too low in fiber or too high in fat contribute to slow and infrequent bowel movements.

Eat a healthy balanced diet, high in fiber and low in fat to keep your bowel in good working order.

  • Dairy Products:

Most dairy products are high in fat content hence a diet consisting of a lot of foods from this category will encourage constipation.

Eat a healthy balanced diet and go easy on the dairy, especially cream and cheese.

  • Not Drinking Enough:

As constipation is caused by slow moving stools it is very obvious that drinking more liquids will help prevent the stool from becoming dry and slow moving. However not all liquids are hydrating. Tea and coffee contain caffeine which causes the body to lose a lot of water through urination. In effect causing the body to dehydrate.

Drink plenty of water and fresh fruit juices such as orange juice. Smoothies made from raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are also good.

  • Pregnancy:

Constant changes in the body and hormones make pregnant women more susceptible to constipation. The uterus may press against the intestine as it grows slowing the passage of food down.

A high fiber diet and plenty of walking will lessen the likely hood of constipation as will knowledge of any drugs or supplements taken during the pregnancy. Iron tablets are particularly hard on the colon; try to get as much iron from your food as possible. The earlier in your pregnancy the better.

  • A Change in Everyday Routine:

A change in diet, job or lifestyle can bring on the dreaded constipation. Travel or holidays can upset your digestive system due to eating and sleeping at different times.

Drink plenty of water daily to keep your body hydrated. Don't eat large quantities of foreign foods that your system is unaccustomed to.

  • Not Going When You Feel The Urge:

Delaying going for a poop is never a good idea. If you don't want to use public toilets or you're in a hurry, regardless, delaying going to the bathroom will result in dryer, harder stools.

When you need to go; the simple thing to do, is go!

  • Some Diseases And Conditions:

Numerous conditions and diseases can cause constipation form MS to diabetes to some forms of cancer.

Be sure to speak with your doctor if you are suffering from any disease or condition to help minimize the risk of constipation.

  • Over Use of Laxatives:

The problem with taking laxatives is eventually the body becomes used to them. Once that happens the laxatives gradually become ineffective, thusly the dosage needs to be increased to maintain the same effect. A vicious cycle of constipation and laxatives puts enormous strain on the colon.

Only use laxatives as a necessity rather than the norm. Use natural laxatives in the form of oils and herbs. Introduce foods and liquids that help combat constipation. Eat more fibre: bran; cereals and breads and green vegetables; spinach and broccoli.

Look After Your Bowel

It is very important that you pay attention to your digestive system. An over worked colon will lead to far more complicated conditions like IBS for example. Constipation while common shouldn't be something you suffer with regularly.

A healthy bowel is a happy bowel. A healthy bowel requires a high fiber, low fat diet; 20 minutes of exercise a day and plenty of hydrating liquids.

One of the most important things you can do to maintain frequent bowel movements is to eat a high fiber cereal in the mornings. It is vital to kick start your bodies metabolism with a healthy food source every morning. The difference between a sluggish start to the day and an energetic start to the day can be as simple as your choice of breakfast cereal. Leave the cooked breakfast for the weekend and stock up on some good old branflakes or weetabix.

If you do suffer frequent bouts of constipation make sure you consult your doctor especially if it follows with diarrhea. Look after your bowel!

You have a party to go to and are suffering with constipation; what do you do about it?

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© 2012 Gabriel Wilson


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    • Gabriel Wilson profile image

      Gabriel Wilson 5 years ago from Madeira, Portugal

      That certainly sounds very interesting; I am sure that many people would be willing to try a different approach other than the more practiced methods. Tanx again for a very informative comment :)

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      and some people have gotten great results from expert acupressure or acupuncture...

    • Gabriel Wilson profile image

      Gabriel Wilson 5 years ago from Madeira, Portugal

      Hi Kenja, I'm glad you're feeling better, there really is nothing worse and thanks for the info too :)

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Love the monkey photo. Last night had some Senna & Licorice tea and then later a little Metamucil with juice, along with some Activia yogurt and water this morning, and feel much better now... Ken

    • Gabriel Wilson profile image

      Gabriel Wilson 5 years ago from Madeira, Portugal

      Hi Joyce. I'm sorry to hear that, it must be awful for you. Have you tried massage; I have a friend that suffers too and she swears by it. You can visit a professional, they will massage outside the bowel area and the lower abdomen and most likely the legs. Once you have learned the basics you can do it yourself.

      I don't know if you have time to exercise but it also helps. Even light walking.

      One thing that never fails for me although not so pleasant is pure prune juice.

      I wish you all the best.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I have suffered with this since childhood. I tried have many fibre type things to no avail. I do drink a lot of water and that doesn't really help.

      Vote up useful and interesting, Joyce.