Constipation Causes and Treatment
There’s a popular saying frequently used when encouraging someone to make a decision: “shit or get off the pot!” However, when faced with constipation, it is difficult to do either. It’s a topic few like to discuss, but almost everyone gets constipated during his or her life.
In fact, constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems in the United States, affecting an estimated 42 million people, or 15 percent of the population.
People of any age, race, or gender can get constipated. Those reporting constipation most often are women, adults ages 65 and older, non-Caucasians, and people in lower socioeconomic classes, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Constipation is also a common problem during pregnancy, following childbirth or surgery, or after taking medications to relieve pain from things such as a broken bone, tooth extraction, or back pain.
Constipation Causes & Treatment Options
There are a few obvious culprits when it comes to the causes of constipation. Those include:
- A low fiber diet.
- Repeatedly ignoring the urge to go.
- Not drinking enough water.
But there are also other less-well-known causes that can contribute to constipation:
Hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid gland, slows the body’s metabolic processes. Carla H. Ginsburg, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains, “when I see a young person who’s constipated more than normal and really complaining, I do tend to get a thyroid level.”
Narcotics, specifically, can often cause constipation. Some studies(Click for the study) suggested that there may be a greater risk of constipation for people who are chronic users of aspirin and ibuprofen.
“A lot of receptors for the narcotic class of drugs are in the digestive tract, so it tends to bring everything to a halt,” explains Thomas Park, MD, a gastroenterologist with the University of Rochester Medical Center Park.
He continues, “in general, it’s a good idea for everyone who’s placed on one of these drugs to also place them on a gentle laxative like a stool softener.”