Constipation is a common digestive disorder that affects people of all ages and all walks of life. The most common symptoms are infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stools and abdominal pain or discomfort. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of dietary fiber, dehydration, certain medications or a combination of all factors.
The causes of constipation can be broadly classified into several categories:
- Diet and lifestyle: A diet low in fiber and fluids, lack of physical activity, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to constipation.
- Medications: Medications such as opioids, antacids, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications can cause constipation as a side effect.
- Medical conditions: Medical conditions such as IBS, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease can lead to constipation.
- Hormonal changes: Constipation can be a symptom of pregnancy and menopause.
- Neurological conditions: Certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and stroke, can also cause constipation.
- Psychological factors: Stress and anxiety can affect bowel movements and contribute to constipation.
The symptoms of constipation vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include:
- Infrequent bowel movements: having fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Hard, dry, or small stools that are difficult to pass
- Straining while trying to have a bowel movement
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Bloating or a feeling of fullness in the abdomen
- A sense of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
- Loss of appetite
Constipation can also lead complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and rectal prolapse. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to find the appropriate treatment.
There are many things you can do to prevent constipation and keep your digestive system healthy. Here are some tips to help you have a regular bowel movement and avoid the discomfort of constipation.
- Get enough fiber in your diet: Fiber is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It helps to keep the stools soft and bulky, making them easier to pass. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are all great sources of fiber. Aim to get at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for preventing constipation. Dehydration can make stools harder and more difficult to pass, so it is important to stay well-hydrated to prevent constipation. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day.
- Get regular physical activity: Regular physical activity helps to stimulate the muscles in the colon and rectum. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, every day.
- Don’t ignore the urge to go: Waiting too long to use the bathroom can make bowel movements more difficult and uncomfortable.
- Try natural laxatives: There are many natural laxatives that can help to alleviate constipation, such as prunes, figs, and flaxseeds. These foods are rich in fiber and can help to promote regular bowel movements.
- Avoid foods that can cause constipation: Some foods can make constipation worse, such as processed foods, cheese, and red meat.
- Take over-the-counter products: There are several over-the-counter products available that can help to alleviate constipation. These include fiber supplements, stool softeners, and laxatives. However, before taking any over-the-counter products, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate treatment for you.
It is important to watch out for any symptoms that may indicate a more serious underlying condition. If you experience abdominal pain, blood in the stool, rectal prolapse, persistent constipation, dehydration, or weight loss, seek medical attention.
constipation is a common digestive issue that can cause a variety of symptoms and can lead to more serious health problems. By following the tips above, you can help to prevent constipation and keep your digestive system healthy. Remember to speak with a healthcare professional if you are experiencing constipation and have tried these lifestyle changes without success, so they can help you to rule out any underlying causes.
About The Author
Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018.
Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get.