Constipation is not nice. Everybody has their own idea of what being constipated means, but most recognize it as having infrequent bowel movements, a decrease in the volume of stool and a need to strain or a feeling that there has been an incomplete evacuation.
Bowel movements are a very individual thing and some people may go 3 times a day and others 3 times a week. Its when a ‘normal’ routine changes that we may need to take action.
Bowel habits are affected by diet and exercise. It is recommended that our diet contains 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day and approximately 60 to 80 ounces of fluid daily.
The easy way to be sure of getting the recommended intake of fiber is to add high fiber foods to our diets such as bran, shredded wheat, whole grain breads and certain fruits and vegetables.
It is believed that around 80% of people suffer from constipation at some time during their lives. Brief periods of constipation are normal and not to be concerned about. A diagnosis of constipation is likely to be made if you have less than 3 bowel movements a week on an on going basis. The widespread belief that everyone should have at least one bowel movement a day has led to an over use and abuse of laxatives.
There are several causes for a person to become constipated. We have already taken a brief look at diet but there can be other factors. Travel, pregnancy , a sedentary lifestyle or a change in diet can aggravate constipation. Or if a person should constantly ignore the urge to have a bowel movement this can lead to constipation as well. If you need to go, GO.
Unfortunately there are some more serious reasons as to why a person could become constipated. Growths or areas of narrowing in the colon could also be a reason. So if constipation persists it is wise to seek medical advice.
On rare occasions constipation may be a symptom of scieroderma, lupus, disorders of the nervous system or endocrine system which could include thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and spinal cord injuries.
Some medications can cause or worsen constipation such as medications for:
Blood pressure medication
Should you end up visiting a Doctor about constipation he will probably first look at your diet and may suggest some life style changes.
Fiber supplements containing indigestible vegetable fiber are often recommended too.
These supplements , such as Metamucil, may take several weeks to reach their full effectiveness but are not harmful or habit forming.
Other forms of laxatives, enemas or suppositories should only be used when recommended and monitored by your Doctor.
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons