Constipation: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Constipation is the difficulty in expelling the hard stools from the body and causes of Constipation is the problem of the digestive system which is quite painful.
Though many may not talk about this tragedy of nutrition, more than 90% of the people had suffered from this problem at some point in time in their life. Constipation has been troubling the elderly people and children more often.
Though the signs of constipation are not the immediate call of the doctor, a little change in diet pattern and daily routine can help relieve the symptoms of constipation.
The main symptom of constipation is the difficulty and straining in expelling the stools out of the body.
Other symptoms are nausea, stomach ache, loss of appetite bloating and stomach cramps.
Constipation occurs when the stools have become extremely dry and hard because the colon had absorbed too much of water from the undigested food (waste material) present in it. This high rate of absorption is due to the slow movement of the food in the alimentary canal or tract. Subsequently, feces or stools become very hard and dry and difficult to expel.
Emptying the bowel, therefore, becomes very difficult and painful.
Following are the underlying causes of Constipation:
1) Lack of dietary fibers:
One of the major causes of constipation is lack of dietary fibers. To prevent constipation, take a lot of fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid low fiber diet like fatty foods such as cheese, meat, eggs etc. Fibers facilitate the movement of the bowel thus, preventing constipation.
2) Physical Inactivity:
A lack of physical exercise may result in constipation. In the case of elder people who have been bedridden for several weeks, the risk of constipation increases. Experts believe a lack of physical activity decreases body metabolism.
Constipation may be the side effects of many drugs like narcotic pain drugs like codeine, antidepressants like imipramine, anticonvulsants like carbamazepine, iron supplements, antihypertensives especially calcium channel blockers like diltiazem, diuretics like chlorothiazide etc.
4) Milk and Cheese:
Because milk and cheese are low in fibers, therefore, consuming these products may result in constipation in some people.
In pregnancy, the uterus may compress the intestine, slowing down the passage of food which may result in constipation.
Old age may cause various effects like low metabolism, weakening of digestive system muscles, lack of physical activity, weakening of intestinal movement. All these factors contribute to constipation.
7) Changes in Daily Routine Like Traveling:
Traveling or any other change in the daily routine can affect the digestive system and can result in constipation. Traveling especially is one of the most common reasons for having constipation. Meals taken at different time of the day, going to bed at a different time may result in the change in toilet timing also causing constipation.
8) Overuse of laxatives:
Self-medication with laxatives for necessarily going to the toilet without a natural urge is one of the most common underlying causes of constipation. Overuse of laxatives is habit forming and make the digestive system dependent on them and therefore, increases the risk of constipation if not taken then.
9) Not going to the Toilet when Needed:
Some individuals ignore the urge to have a bowel movement and delay the need to go to the toilet. The longer it is delayed, harder and drier the stool gets resulting in constipation.
10) Not drinking enough water:
Regularly drinking water reduces the chances of constipation.
11) Alcohol and Soda Drinks:
Alcohol and soda drinks dehydrate the body worsening the risk of constipation.
12) Tumors of colon or rectum:
Intestinal tumors of colon and rectum can restrict the passage of intestine and causes constipation.
13) Some diseases and conditions:
Certain diseases tend to slow down the bowel movement causing constipation. Examples are:
- Neurological disorders like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and spinal cord injuries
- Endocrine and metabolic conditions like Uremia, diabetes, hypercalcemia, and hypothyroidism.
- Systemic diseases: like lupus, scleroderma, amyloidosis.
- Cancer: Painful medications, chemotherapy, radiotherapy causes Constipation. Also, cancer of colon and rectum can restrict the passage of intestine and causes constipation.
IBS with Constipation:
IBS means Irritable bowel syndrome. It is a common condition involving recurrent abdominal pain, stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation, often associated with stress, depression, anxiety, or previous intestinal infection. The condition affects about 3% to 20% of the American population.
IBS is also termed as spastic colon, irritable colon, mucous colitis, and spastic colitis.
People who suffer from IBS have higher chances of getting constipation as compared to rest.
Treatment and Relief:
1) Change in lifestyle
2) Increase in physical activities like doing exercise.
3) Eating fibrous diet.
4) Take laxatives
5) Drink plenty of water
All these will help to get relief from the signs and symptoms of constipation
A healthy lifestyle with a lot of physical exercises, lots of water and a fibrous diet can prevent the risk of constipation.
1) Fruits and vegetables you should eat if you have a tendency of constipation, include:
a) Fibrous foods like raisins, salads, bran cereals, whole grain bread
b) Fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables
c) Oatmeals, legumes, applesauce
d) Herbal teas
2) Do exercise daily like brisk walking for at least half an hour
3) Visit the toilet for 15 daily the morning even if you don’t have an urge for the bowel movement.
OTC laxatives as a medication for constipation:
You should use the following laxatives as the last choice since laxatives are habit forming:
- Stimulants: These rhythmically contract the intestinal muscles. Examples are Correctol, Dulcolax, and Senokot.
- Lubricants: These move the stool down very easily. An example is mineral oil and Fleet.
- Stool softeners: These moisten and lubricates the stool. Eg Colace and Surfak.
- Fiber supplements: Also called as bulk laxatives, they are the safest option in the list. They should be taken with plenty of water Eg are FiberCon, Metamucil, Konsyl, Serutan, and Citrucel.
- Osmotics: These increase the movement of fluids through the colon. Eg Examples is Cephulac, Sorbitol, and Miralax.
- Saline laxatives: These extract water into the colon. Examples are milk of magnesia.
- Chloride channel activators: Examples lubiprostone (Amitiza).
- 5-HT-4 agonists: They increase the secretion of fluid and movement of food in the intestines. Examples include Prucalopride.
Written By Mansi Mandal
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