Constipation definition, symptoms and remedies

Constipation is a very common gastrointestinal problem. People who struggle with constipation have infrequent bowel movements; pass hard stools or strain during bowel movements.

Constipation; image source: health.com

Definition

What’s the considered normal frequency for bowel movements? In general, you’re probably experiencing constipation if you pass fewer than three stools a week, and your stools are hard and dry.

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Most cases of constipation are only temporary

Luckily, most cases of constipation are temporary. Simple lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating a high-fiber diet, can go a long way toward alleviating constipation.

However, you’re more likely to have constipation if you are:

  • An older adult
  • Sedentary
  • Confined to bed
  • Eating a diet that’s low in fiber
  • Not getting adequate fluids
  • Taking certain medications, including sedatives, narcotics or certain medications to lower blood pressure
  • Undergoing chemotherapy

Women are also more commonly affected by constipation than are men, and children more so than adults. If you’re pregnant, you may have bouts of constipation because of hormonal changes.

Later in your pregnancy, pressure on your intestines from your expanding uterus also can cause constipation. Considering the many factors that can cause constipation it is no surprise that over four million Americans experience this highly uncomfortable condition.

Reasons for constipation

Not having enough fiber

Not having enough fiber in your diet is by far the top cause of constipation. Fiber is important to the body for many reasons, the most important reason being for your digestion of course. Fruits have a lot of fiber.

basket of fruits
Fruits contain a lot of fiber.

Many people that deal with constipation may find that they aren’t eating enough fruits. Make sure to eat plenty of fruit! Also, many types of cereal also include a lot of fiber.

Medications

Medications are supposed to help us, but they also carry side effects. One such side effect of many medications is constipation. Even some over-the-counter medications may cause medications.

This can include Tylenol, and many anti-depressants. The best way to avoid this is to make sure you only take medications unless you absolutely need them. In addition, if you find out that one of your medications is causing this side effect, try looking for an alternative medication.

Habit

Are you in the habit of having to go to the bathroom but holding it? This may eventually lead to problems with constipation.

It is important to go to the bathroom whenever you need to. Failure to do so can result in a decreased urge of having to go to the bathroom. This of course leads to constipation.

Hormones

Believe it or not, hormones can also affect your bathroom habits and lead to constipation. For instance, a woman who is going through her period may often find that she has a hard time going to the bathroom.

If you are dealing with constipation and also dealing with hormones, this may be the cause.

Diseases

Although it is rare, constipation can also be caused by a disease that may affect the brain or spinal cord. Although you shouldn’t jump to conclusions, if you are dealing with long-term constipation you should always go to the doctor just to be safe.

Possible complications of untreated constipation

Even though constipation can be extremely bothersome, it’s typically not very serious. If it continues on, you may develop certain complications, such as:

Hemorrhoids or cracks (fissures) in your anus may result when hard stool stretches the sphincter muscle. Fecal impaction occurs when you accumulate a mass of hardened stool that can’t be eliminated by a normal bowel movement. You may need to have impacted stool removed manually.

Rectal prolapse occurs when a small amount of rectal tissue pushes out through the anus. This condition may lead to a secretion of mucus from the anus.

Lazy bowel syndrome may occur if you use laxatives frequently, causing your bowels to become dependent on them for proper function. Laxative use can also lead to other problems, including poor absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Remedies for constipation

Eat More Fiber!

This can NOT be said enough. You need to eat more fiber. It is very likely that this is what caused your constipation in the first place. Many high fiber foods include fruit, cereal, etc.

Exercise More!

Exercise regularly; image source: pexels.com

Try and get more exercise! Besides keeping you in good shape, exercise can help keep your digestive system going smoothly. A walk each day is definitely recommended with fighting constipation.

Don’t Hold It In!

When you do have to go to the bathroom, don’t hold it in! You don’t want your body to get used to holding it in. It is very important to go to the bathroom when you feel the urge to go.

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Take Laxatives!

Laxatives are a great way of helping you relieve constipation. However, because it is medication, you need to be careful. Do not take laxatives too often. You may also want to consult a doctor before you take them.

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