The Basics of Constipation
Constipation is a condition when the frequency of bowel movements decreases or the passage of stools become difficult. It is a fairly common condition and everybody suffers from it at some point in his life. According to statistics, 2% of the US population suffers from constipation. More than 2.5 million people in America visit their doctor every year with constipation related problems. Women and elderly people are more likely to suffer from this condition.
When Do You Say That a Person is Constipated?
There are a few parameters on the basis of which a person is labeled as being suffering from constipation. These parameters are:
- Straining to pass the stools more than 25% of the time
- Passing hard stools more than 25% time
- Feeling of incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
- Passing stools two times or less in a week
If these conditions persist for more than three months, the person is said to be suffering from constipation.
Causes of Constipation
Some common causes of constipation include:
- Deficient intake of water
- Deficient quantity of fibers in diet
- A change from the routine bowel habits, like during travelling
- Inadequate physical movement
- Consuming more of dairy products
- Suffering from stress
- Resisting to pass bowels because of painful conditions like hemorrhoids
- Neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis
- Consuming antacids
- Overusing laxatives can weaken the muscles of the bowel
- Eating disorders like bulimia
- Medicines like narcotics and antidepressants
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Cancer of the colon
Symptoms of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation include:
- Decreased frequency of bowel movement
- Hard stools
- Sense of incomplete evacuation
- Bloating of abdomen
Diagnosis of Constipation
Constipation is diagnosed on the basis of above mentioned parameters. However, certain diagnostic tests are performed in order to find out the cause of constipation. These tests include:
- Examination of stools to look for presence of blood
- Blood tests to find out any hormonal cause of constipation
- Barium studies and colonoscopy to look for obstruction of bowel
Prevention of Constipation
Several things have been recommended to prevent constipation. These include:
- Drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water every day unless its intake has been restricted because of some medical condition
- Eating a diet that contains adequate amount of fiber. Good sources of fiber include green vegetables, legumes, cereal and whole grain bread.
- Exercising regularly.
- Sticking to a routine.
- Moving the bowels whenever you feel the urge.
Treatment of Constipation
If a person complains of constipation, he is advised to increase his intake of water. He should drink at least two to four extra glasses of water every day. Apart from this, he is advised to consume warm liquids early in the morning. The person should increase the portion of fruits and vegetables in his diet. Eating bran or cereal would also help.
If the constipation does not improve with these steps, a mild laxative like Milk of Magnesia can be taken. However, under no circumstance should the use of laxatives be continued for more than two weeks without consulting the doctor.
“Chronic Constipation: An Evidence-Based Review,” by Lawrence Leung, Taylor Riutta, Walter Rosser, et al. Published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine in August 2011, accessed on July 11, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.jabfm.org/content/24/4/436.full