Constipation is a surprisingly common condition. It is something which can impact you at any age. The actual definition of constipation will vary from person to person, although we will come to that in a short while.
Essentially, constipation occurs when you are passing a stool less frequently than you normally would. As we mentioned previously, the frequency is going to be dependent on the person. You must know what your bathroom habits are right now. For example; there are some people out there who may pass a stool a couple of times per day. There are others which may go three days without the need to pass a stool. In determining whether you have constipation or not, you will need to look at what your past bathroom habits are. Your doctor will ask you about this when you seek a diagnosis.
Constipation occurs if the stools remain in your colon for too long. When this happens, the colon starts to absorb water from the stools. This causes them to become dry and hard. This makes it incredibly difficult to pass the stool out of your system and can lead to hemorrhoids.
The symptoms of constipation (other than not having regular bathroom habits), may include the following:
- Pain in the stomach. This may come in the form of aches or cramps.
- You will feel bloated
- You may feel sick
- You may suffer from a lack of appetite.
Children can, of course, also suffer from constipation. The symptoms are going to be much the same as above. Of course, children are not the best at talking about their symptoms. Thankfully, there are a few other things that you may be able to spot:
- They have a lack of energy
- They seem to be irritable or generally unhappy
- They have bad smelling smells or wind.
- They are soiling their clothes
You should see your doctor if you are suffering from any of the symptoms above. If you are suffering from constipation, then it does indicate that there is something is wrong and you will need to deal with it sooner as opposed to later. The constipation is not the issue. It is what is causing the constipation that is the issue.
We are going to be honest with you here; most constipation does not have a defined ‘cause’. It may be there one day, then disappear the next. Yes. There is a reason why you are suffering from the constipation. You and your doctor may never get to the bottom of it, however.
There are several reasons as to why you may be suffering from constipation. It is likely to be a combination of these factors. They can include:
- If you are not consuming enough fiber. Remember; fiber helps your stools to have bulk. This makes them ‘softer’ and easier to pass through your system.
- If you change your eating habits. For example; quickly change up the type of food that you are eating.
- If you are ignoring the urge to pass a stool. If you want to pass a stool, then go.
- If you are immobile or not exercising regularly.
- If you are not drinking enough fluids.
- You have a temperature
- You have weight issues. This does not just mean that you are overweight. Constipation has also been linked to those who are underweight too.
- You are suffering from depression
- You are suffering from anxiety
- You have certain psychological issues.
In other cases, your constipation may be down to any medication that you are taking. If you are taking one of the following, then you are more likely to suffer from constipation:
- Calcium supplements
- Painkillers (opiates)
- Iron supplements
The following conditions may also cause constipation:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Pregnancy (during the early stages of pregnancy)
- Underactive thyroid
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis.
- Injuries to the spinal cord
- Bowel cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Anal fissure
When it comes to preventing constipation from occurring in the first place, there is little that you can do. As you can probably tell from the list above, only a few of those situations are ‘controllable’. If you do believe that you are suffering from constipation, then do talk to your doctor and they will be able to provide you with advice on why you are suffering from the condition. They can deal with it that way. Of course, right now, we want to focus on how to try and prevent the condition as much as possible.
This is where most of the prevention is going to take place. You will want to ensure that you are consuming enough fiber. This, as we mentioned previously, helps to keep your stools nice and soft which should help it to pass through the system.
In order to get as much fiber as possible into your diet, start by consuming fruits and vegetables. Get your five a day. Couple this with whole-wheat foods such as rice, pasta, and bread. You may also want to get some seeds and oats into your diet if possible.
In most cases, getting more fiber into your diet is all that you really need to do to prevent most cases of constipation.
You should be drinking regularly fluids. Not caffeine and alcohol. We mean water. This will help you to avoid becoming dehydrated.
You should be doing at least thirty minutes of exercise per day. This will help to kick your digestive system into overdrive, ensuring that the waste products (i.e. your stool) will be escorted out of your system.
Finally; you will want to ensure that you have decent toilet habits. By this, we mean that if your body is telling you that it needs to go, then go. Do not delay. This is probably the main reason as to why people end up constipated.