Although, not the most appealing topic to discuss, with 2% of the world dealing with constipation on a regular basis it’s worth talking about. Constipation occurs when one’s bowel movements are less frequent and/or more difficult. The numerical definition of what’s “regular” varies among people, yet going more than 3 days without a bowel movement is concerning. After 3 days, the stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass. It’s important to recognize acute (recent onset) constipation, which requires urgent assessment as there may be an underlying cause. Severe constipation is defined as having less than one bowel movement per week. One’s classified as constipated if he or she demonstrates 2/3 of the following symptoms over a 3 month period:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
- Hard stools more than 25% of the time
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week
Often times constipation is due to a bowel function disorder, not a structural issue.Causes may include: inadequate water intake, inadequate fiber in the diet, disruption of daily routine–traveling,diseases that impact the colon, lack of bowel muscle function, immobility, inadequate exercise, consuming large amounts of dairy products, stress, gastrointestinal tract problems (i.e. adhesions, celiac disease, colon polyps, diverticulosis), hypothyroidism, overuse of laxatives–>weaken bowel muscles, neurological issues (i.e. Parkinson’s diseases, MS), antacid medication that includes calcium and/or aluminum, narcotics, antidepressants, iron pills, depression, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer and/or high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. Prevention and Treatment Measures:
- Consume a diet with at least 20-35 g fiber a day (i. fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain bread and cereal)
- Stay hydrated! Aim to drink 1.5-2 quarts of water daily. Drinks that contain caffeine (i.e. soda) have the tendency to have a dehydrating effect
- Regular exercise
- Don’t resist the urge to move bowels when needed!
- Try drinking warm liquids in the morning
- Use of nonstimulant laxatives
- Biofeedback therapy
While sharing your issues with complication may be embarrassing, it’s important to let your primary care physician know before further complications arise. If left untreated, it can lead to anal fissures, hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse and/or fecal impaction. Now no one wants to deal with that, so take care of before it gets out of hand!
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