Constipation is having less than three bowel movements a week. It can also mean that the stools are dry, hard, small and difficult to pass. If you are constapated you might also find it painful to have a bowel movement and be bloated.
Constapation does not mean not having a bowel every day. Normal elimination for many people is only three movements a week so this is what the definition is based on. Constapation is not a disease and most everyone at some point is constipated. It can be caused by poor diet.
Many people self treat for constapation with over the counter laxatives. Millions and millions of dollars are spent yearly on them. Chronic constapation happens when there is not enough fiber in your diet, lack of activity, medications, irritable bowel syndrome, abuse of laxatives, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, dehydration, stroke, colon or rectal problems and problems with intestinal function.
Eating a high fiber diet and getting exercise will make it less likely for you to be constapated. You need about 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily but most Americans only get about 15 grams.
Taking certain medications, especially if you are older can cause constapation also. These include things like diuretics, iron supplements, antidepressants, anti spasmodics, anti Parkinson drugs, blood pressure drugs and pain medication. Sometimes pregnancy can slow down intestinal movement causing constapation because of changes in hormone levels.
Some conditions cause constipation also so if you have any of the following don’t be surprised to find yourself constipated. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, strokes, spinal cord injury, diabetes, uremia, hypothyroidism, lupus and scleroderma. If you have a history of color and/or rectal problems such as obstructions or scar tissue these can cause constipation also.
There are two types of constapation. Idiopathic, which means it does not respond to standard treatment and the origin is unknown and functional which is usually from problems with the actual structure of the anus and/or rectum.
Treatment of constipation depends on the cause, the level of severity and how long a person is constapated. A doctor can give you advice on how to eat a high fiber diet. These foods include things like beans, whole grains, cereal, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Life stype changes may also help. Doing things like drinking enough liquids, engaging in exercise daily and taking time to have a bowel movement, do not ignore the urge.
If you’re only mildly constipated you doctor probably won’t prescribe laxatives, they will recommend lifestyle changes. If your doctor does determine your constapation is more serious he may prescribe one of several types of laxatives. These include bulk-forming laxatives, which are the safest. They absorb the water in the intestine and make your stool softer and easier to pass. Stimulant laxatives, which cause contractions in the intestines and move the stool along. Stool softeners which moisten the stool and make it easier to pass. Osmotic laxatives cause fluids to pass though the colon in a special way that results in bowel distention and bowel movements.
If you become dependent on laxatives, like a dependency on any drug it will have to be stopped slowly. Your doctor can help you with this.