Everyone at some point in their lives had to face the problem of “constipation” which becomes particularly painful if proper caution is not taken. It can be a burden both mentally and physically and can interfere with the daily routine of the person. Though constipation may be temporary, in some cases it may develop into chronic constipation. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), chronic constipation can affect around 2% to 27% of the US population.
Only a small portion of the patients suffering from constipation will seek medical treatment due to the high cost involved in the purchase of laxatives. Most of them will consider amending their diet plan or making use of natural treatment to curb the problem. But what actually is constipation, what are the common causes and how can we decrease our chances of suffering from this illness?
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a condition that primarily relates to the problems in the digestive system. In most cases, a person suffering from constipation will face difficulty in passing out faeces along with other minor symptoms. It usually happens when the colon absorbs an excess amount of water resulting in a slower contraction of the attached muscles which make it difficult to excrete out stools. Faeces as a consequence of it become dry and hard causing a lot of pain.
Symptoms of Constipation?
The obvious symptom of constipation is having difficult excreting out faeces. However, there are some other signs which may indicate the possibility of this condition. Some of them include
- Discomfort in the lower abdomen area
- Occasional Diarrhea
- Bloating and nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Mood disruption and psychological obsession of revisiting toilet
What causes Constipation?
Although there remains no straightforward cause for constipation, medical scientists have identified numerous probable reasons that may contribute towards this condition. From a dietary imbalance to the usage of certain medications, constipation may be caused by anything!
Medications Causing Constipation
Certain synthetic drugs are known to contain chemical substances that may interfere with the working of the digestive system. This cause of constipation is often overlooked and a person may continue to use it prolonging the condition unnecessarily. Medications that may contribute towards constipation are as follows
- Narcotic pain medications like codeine, oxycodone
- Majority of the anti-depressants particularly amitriptyline, carbamazepine and nortriptyline
- Frequent use of iron supplements
Therefore, it is recommended to use these drugs only when prescribed by the doctor and at the same time being completely aware of their side effects. Often it might not be desirable to leave the medicine rather substitute for another supplement that may not have constipation as its probable side effect.
Other causes of Constipation
A diet lacking daily intake of fiber is likely to result in constipation. Fiber induces bowel movements relaxing the colon muscles aiding the excretion of faeces. Thereby, it is important that our diet includes a significant portion of fibers to avoid developing this condition.
Lack of physical exercise
According to research, people with the minimum amount of physical activity as well as bedridden people are more likely to face the problem of constipation. Although the actual reason as to why inactivity contributes towards this condition is still relatively unknown, nutritionists feel that physical exercise daily increases the blood metabolic rate. Which in turn draws muscles into action reducing the chances of contraction in the colon area
Avoiding the toilet when required
Some people may deliberately skip toilet breaks by hoping that the urge may gradually go away. This action can be particularly harmful as it disrupts essential bowel movements. By skipping toilet breaks for a longer period of times, the stool may become harder and dry contracting the muscles in the colon hence causing constipation
Ageing and change in routine
Older people are far more likely to suffer from constipation than any other age group. Apart from the physical inactivity that results due as we age, there can be disruptions in the way somebody functions work. Changes in the bowel and bladder routine may be one of them which eventually results in frequent acute constipation for older people.
Furthermore, a lower metabolic rate in the older age may slow down intestinal activity in the body
For people of all age groups, a change in the timings of meal intake can contribute to developing the condition. This is because a body’s digestive system is tuned to perform in a certain way which might get hindered if timings of meals are disrupted
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through some essential change which includes changes in the hormonal balance. Hormonal changes occur for relaxing the body and making room for the baby however at the same time making constipation more likely. Chances of constipation are significant in the early stage of pregnancy though they may increase in the later stage as well due to the enlargement of the uterus that can exert pressure on the bowel
Constipation during pregnancy may also contribute towards other medical complications which include:
- Haemorrhoids or piles which are the swollen veins in the anus and rectum region
- Anal fissures which are the tearing of the skin lining up the walls of the anus. Occurs when a pregnant woman has difficulty passing the hard, dry stools out
Drinking Plentiful of Water
Dehydration is one common cause of constipation among people as it irritates the bowel movements in the body. To prevent that, it is vital that a person drinks plenty of water, especially during humid and hot weather.
At the same time, some nutritionists highlight the importance of sparkling water to relieve the pain of constipation. According to a research, sparkling water can counter the effects of chronic constipation as well as irritable bowel syndrome. Caution needs to be taken to avoid carbonated water that contains an excessive amount of sugars as in some cases, the effect can be counterproductive thereby increasing the chances of constipation
Maintaining a healthy diet
As mentioned earlier a dietary imbalance becomes one major cause of constipation among people. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that our diet contains an essential amount of fiber. Majority of the fruits and vegetables are known to be the rich source though nutritionists advise eating apples, raspberries and oranges as they provide with the vital daily requirements. At the same time, whole wheat-grain bread should be preferred over gluten to minimize the chances of developing this condition.
Use of Herbal Laxatives
Senna, a herbal laxative is known to contain glycosides which propel bowel movements by stimulating the nerves in the gut. Taken both orally and rectally, Senna is often recommended to pregnant women
Recent studies have shown that caffeinated coffee can help smoothen the muscles in the digestive system, being 60% more effective than drinking water. Coffee is also known to contain soluble bacteria which helps keep the proportion of gut bacteria.
Constipation: One Common Problem?
It is true that constipation has become one incredibly big and a common problem among people affecting almost everyone at least once. Medications for constipation are available however, the natural remedies should be preferred as they are cheap and readily available. At the same time, it is important for a person suffering from constipation to know the cause for it as some supplements which we might be taking on a routine basis can be a contributor.