Constipation is a common symptom where a person has difficulty passing faeces or unusually dry stool. In simple language it is irregular and infrequent or difficult evacuation of the bowels. Constipation is determined in the colon (large intestine), which is responsible for packaging and eliminating stool. As food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming stool. Muscle contractions (squeezing motions) in the colon push the stool toward the rectum (the lower 8 to 10 inches of the large intestine). By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid, because most of the water has been absorbed.
Common constipation - occasional constipation
1. Chronic constipation
2. Travel-related constipation
3. Age-related constipation
4. Pregnancy-related constipation
5. Chronic idiopathic constipation
6. Functional constipation
1. Diet: The most common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and high in fats found in cheese, eggs, and meats. People who eat plenty of high-fiber foods are less likely to become constipated.
2. Not enough liquids: Liquids like water and juice add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. Other liquids, like coffee and soft drinks that contain caffeine seem to have a dehydrating effect.
3. Lack of Exercise: Lack of exercise can also lead to constipation. For example, constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness when one must stay in bed and cannot exercise.
4. Medications: Pain medications (especially narcotics), antacids, antispasmodics, antidepressants, iron supplements, diuretics, and anticonvulsants for epilepsy can slow passage of bowel movements.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Some people with IBS, also known as spastic colon, have spasms in the colon that affect bowel movements. Constipation and diarrhoea often alternate, and abdominal cramping, gassiness, and bloating are other common complaints. Although IBS can produce lifelong symptoms, it is not a life-threatening condition. It often worsens with stress.
6. Changes in Life or Routine: During pregnancy, women may be constipated because of hormonal changes or because the heavy uterus compresses the intestine. In addition, people often become constipated when travelling because their normal diet and daily routines are disrupted.
7. Abuse of Laxatives: Laxatives usually are not necessary and can be habit- forming. The colon begins to rely on laxatives to bring on bowel movements. Over time, laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon and interfere with the colon's natural ability to contract. For the same reason, regular use of enemas can also lead to a loss of normal bowel function.
8. Ignoring the Urge to Have a Bowel Movement: People who ignore the urge to have a bowel movement may eventually stop feeling the urge, which can lead to constipation. Some people delay having a bowel movement because they do not want to use toilets outside the home. Others ignore the urge because of emotional stress or because they are too busy. Children may postpone having a bowel movement because of stressful toilet training or because they do not want to interrupt their play.
9. Specific Diseases: Diseases that cause constipation include neurological disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, and systemic conditions that affect organ systems. These disorders can slow the movement of stool through the colon, rectum, or anus.
1. Difficult bowel movement
2. Dry bowel movement
3. Painful bowel movement
4. Abdominal pain
7. Weight loss
8. Feeling uncomfortable
9. Feeling sluggish
10. Diarrhoea - a blockage only allows liquid to pass
11. Abdominal swelling
12. Loss of appetite
1. Anal fissures
2. Rectal prolapse
3. Faecal incontinence
4. Feeling sluggish
5. Feeling uncomfortable
6. Bloody stools
Constipation is a condition where bowel movements (stools) are hard and difficult to pass, causing you to strain when you go to the toilet. It’s also a major risk factor for haemorrhoids. Anyone can develop constipation, but it is particularly common in women during pregnancy.
1. Eat plenty of high-fibre foods
2. Drink plenty of water every day
3. Exercise regularly
4. Empty your bowels when you need to – try not to ‘hang on’ to a bowel movement for too long
5. Avoid any medicines that can cause constipation (for example, painkillers containing codeine)
6. Avoid sitting on the toilet for long periods of time doing puzzles, reading or playing electronic games – this increases the amount of time you spend straining and placing unnecessary pressure on the blood vessels of the anus.
7. Maintaining a healthy weight
8. Being overweight is another factor that may contribute to the development of haemorrhoids.
9. Exercising regularly, eating a low-fat diet and moderating your alcohol intake can all help to reduce weight.
1. Exercise more regularly – for example, by going for a daily walk or run .
2. Keep to a routine (a place and time of day) when you're able to spend time on the toilet. Respond to your bowel's natural pattern: when you feel the urge, don't delay.
3. Try resting your feet on a low stool while going to the toilet, so that your knees are above your hips; this can make passing stools easier.
4. If medication you're taking could be causing constipation, your GP may be able to prescribe an alternative.
5. Increase your daily intake of fibre. You should eat at least 18-30g of fibre a day. High-fibre foods include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals.
6. Add some bulking agents, such as wheat bran, to your diet. This will help to make your stools softer and easier to pass.
7. Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water.