Constipation is often defined by tough, hard to pass bowel movements that occur infrequently. Other signs and symptoms include bloating, having the sensation of an incomplete evacuation, abdominal pain and blood present in the stool.
While constipation is known for being both physically uncomfortable and embarrassing, the condition is more common than one might think. Constipation affects approximately 30 percent of the general population, and is most prevalent in women, children and the elderly. Persistent constipation should not be ignored as it could be the sign of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
What are some of the Common Causes of Constipation ?
“If you don’t have enough water in your body already, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste,” making for harder to pass stools. Caffeine can cause dehydration, and even dairy has been known to constipate some people. Proper hydration however, can help move food through the intestines and create softer stools.
Lack of Fiber
Fiber encourages regular bowel movements by allowing more water to remain in your stool and hastening it’s passage through the gut. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts are the best natural source of fiber. However, fiber supplements can be helpful as well.
Just like most of your bodily functions, the nervous system is in constant communication with your digestive system. During periods of intense stress, the digestive system can slow down resulting in constipation. Waiting too long to go to the bathroom for example, can cause a build up.
Not Enough Physical Activity
Regular activity helps to stimulate the muscles in intestines and can also help alleviate stress.
Though laxatives can help ease constipation, they can also become habit forming meaning that one’s bowel movements end up depending on them. Overusing laxatives can over time can weaken the bowel muscles. Additionally, many anti-depressants and pain medications are common causes of constipation. It is recommended that any and all medications should be discussed with your doctor.
While many lifestyle changes can help to relieve constipation, if you experience chronic constipation, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.