Constipation simply refers to sluggish gut movements. That is when gut movement is slowed down than usual. It is a very common gastrointestinal problem worldwide. More than 2 million Americans visit the hospital for constipation complaints annually.
Although constipation may seem mild, unmanaged chronic constipation may be a harbinger of serious conditions. In drastic cases, a colorectal surgeon may have to step in to alleviate complications.
How Do You Know You Are Constipated?
- Less than three bowel movements per week, on average: Usually, bowel patterns differ for different people. However, suspicions should arise when you observe a marked deviation from your normal weekly patterns.
- Dry, hard, small, and difficult stools.
- Discomfort and pain during defecation.
- Nausea and bloating.
- You feel as though you have not yet completely emptied your bowels, even after defecation.
Causes of Constipation.
They range from lifestyle and dietary habits to medication and predisposing medical conditions. Some of them include:
- Not consuming enough roughages: Roughages are the non-digestible contents of foods like fruits and vegetables. They keep the gut well-toned. Absence in the diet leads to weakly-toned muscles and constipation.
- Dehydration: Your body tries to conserve the water it has One of the ways it does this is to reabsorb water bound for exit elsewhere- like the gut. Excess reabsorption can cause constipation.
- Medication: Medication such as antidepressants and very strong painkillers (e.g. codeine) can predispose one to constipation as well.
- Pregnancy: The hormonal imbalance and the pressure exerted by the fetus predispose pregnant women to constipation.
- A sudden change in activity patterns (as in traveling). Going without exercise for a long period is a factor as well.
- Holding in stools even when pressed.
- Endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism.
- Intestinal conditions (such as irritable bowel disease).
- Neurological problems such as a spinal cord injury, or multiple sclerosis.
- Age: The older you are, the higher the tendency of suffering constipation.
What Are the Effects of Constipation?
The following are a testament to how serious constipation can be, if unmanaged.
- Fecal impactions: Severe constipation can cause hardened stool that is stuck in the rectum. This makes it impossible to poop until the blockage is removed.
- Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are swollen rectal and anal veins. Hemorrhoids can be very uncomfortable and can cause bleeding in stools as well.
- Anal fissures: The strain of passing hard stools can cause a tear of the anal mucosa. This is often very painful. In addition, fissures can become infected and cause further complications.
- Diverticulitis: The infection of out-pockets of the gut mucosa is another possible effect of constipation.
- Predisposition to colorectal tumors: Chances of benign tumors and colon cancer are increased in chronically constipated people. There is a double chance of colon cancer, and triple of a benign tumor, compared to the unconstipated.
- In addition, the straining can take a toll on pelvic muscles as well. It might even end up damaging
The long-term effects of constipation seem serious. However, prevention and control are as simple as it gets, for the most part.
Eating more roughages in the diet, adequate hydration and regular exercise are potent measures. Easing yourself as soon as you feel like is also important.
Laxatives, stool softeners, and enemas also work. In relatively serious cases, consulting a physician is the most ideal thing to do.