Common Causes of Constipation

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 ?

Dehydration

“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.

Stress

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.

Medication

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.

 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Signs and Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder affecting the large intestine. Though the exact cause is not known, this chronic condition is thought to be the result of hormonal or bacterial changes in the gut, as well as the disruption in communication between one’s gut and brain; as together they are tasked with controlling digestion.

While the syndrome afflicts mostly those under the age of 50, women are twice as likely than men to suffer from IBS. The following are the most common signs and symptoms of IBS, most of which can be relieved with the passing of a bowel movement.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Cramping & Abdominal Pain
  • Bloating & Gas
  • Diarrhea and or Constipation

Pain is usually felt as the muscles in the lower abdomen contract and excessive gas from bacteria can leave the stomach feeling full and protruding.

The three main types of IBS are:

  • Diarrhea-Predominant (D-IBS)
  • Constipation-Predominate (C-IBS)
  • Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea (A-IBS)

Both diarrhea and constipation are key symptoms of IBS. This is because the condition causes the muscles to contract in an abnormal way. As a result, they either speed up or slow down one’s bowel movements. Blood or mucus in the stool is another sign for concern as well.

While there is no cure for IBS, one’s diet, lifestyle and stress levels can play an important role in managing the symptoms.

Diet

Removing specific carbohydrates form one’s diet may help prevent flare ups. Food allergies, a lactose intolerance and celiac disease for example tend to cause inflammation and irritation in the gut.

Lifestyle

Exercise and proper sleep have been effective in stimulating normal contractions in the intestines. Additionally, proper hydration, high fiber foods and natural or probiotic supplements can help regulate bowel movements.

Stress

As the nervous system controls the gut, IBS is also thought to be linked to one’s mental health. Effectively treating anxiety, depression and stress therefore could help reduce psychological events that may be triggering IBS.

As one’s sensitivity varies from person to person, a gastroenterologist can help best identify IBS triggers. A gastroenterologist can also and discuss options for managing symptoms with or without medication. More serious signs of IBS including weight loss, pain that isn’t relieved by gas or a bowel movement, fever, vomiting, and iron deficiency. These symptoms might be indicative of colon cancer. Those with a family history of IBS and or mental health issues are at more of a risk for suffering from the condition. In order to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment regiment, it is recommended that you see a specialist in digestive diseases

If you are experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of IBS contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today. Our clinical team of 21 fellowship-trained Gastroenterologists and 13 advanced practice clinicians have been providing care to patients suffering from disorders of the digestive system since 2013. Each of our five locations in the Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana area offer expert specialization in gastrointestinal care. Just visit our website to schedule an appointment at the location most convenient to you.