What is Constipation?

Constipation is technically defined as having less than three bowel motions per week. However, the frequency with which you “use the toilet” varies greatly with each individual. Some have bowel motions multiple times a day, while others only have them three or four times a week.

Whatever bowel movement pattern you have is normal for you, as long as you don’t deviate too much from it.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

While bowel movement patterns vary from person, there are a number of signs and symptoms you to look out for. Symptoms of constipation include:

·        Having trouble passing stool.

·        Straining or pain when passing stool.

·        Passing a lot less stool than normal.

·        Passing lumpy, dry or hard stools.

·        A sensation of the rectum being blocked and preventing bowel movements.

·        Feeling unable to entirely empty stool out of the rectum.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms:

·        Bleeding from rectum.

·        Bloody stools.

·        Constant abdominal and lower back aches.

·        Fever.

·        Vomiting.

·        Unexplained and sudden weight loss.

·        An abrupt shift in bowel movements.

What are the causes of constipation?

The primary function of the colon is to absorb water from leftover food as it passes through the digestive system, before producing a stool. The waste is finally pushed out via the rectum and removed by the colon’s muscles. If faeces is left in the colon for an extended period, it may make the stool hard and difficult to pass.

Constipation is a common side effect of a poor diet. To keep stools soft, eat a high-fibre diet and drink plenty of water. Plant-based foods are often high in fibre. Fibre comes in two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and travels through the digestive system as a soft, gel-like substance.

As it passes through the digestive system, insoluble fibre keeps the majority of its structure. Stool absorbs both types of fibre, increasing its weight and bulk while softening it. This makes passing through the rectum simpler.

Constipation can also be caused by stress, changes in habit, and disorders that decrease colon muscle contractions or postpone the need to move.

Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, which include lifestyle choices, medications and other medical conditions.

Some of the lifestyle factors that cause constipation include:

·        Diets heavy in meat, milk, or cheese which have a low content of fibre.

·        Dehydration.

·        Low levels of physical activity.

·        Changes in normal routine, such as eating, travelling and inconsistent sleeping patterns.

·        Fighting off the urge to use the toilet.

·        Stress.

Certain medications are also capable of causing constipation. These include:

·        Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.

·        Antacids, which contain calcium or aluminium.

·        Medications for allergies, such as antihistamines.

·        Medications for nausea, such as ondansetron.

·        Psychiatric medications, such as olanzapine and clozapine

·        Anticonvulsants, such as phenytoin.

How can you treat and prevent constipation?

The simplest and quickest method to cure and prevent constipation is through a change in your diet and frequently exercising.

Here are some other methods you could try:

·        Keep your body hydrated by drinking at least 2 litres of water a day.

·        Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, both of which dehydrate your body.

·        Include more fibre-rich foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, prunes and beans in your diet. Fibber should be consumed in the range of 20 to 35 grams per day.

·        Reduce your consumption of low-fibre meals such as milk, cheese, meat and processed foods.

·        Practice a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, with a minimum of 30 minutes per day five days a week.

·        Don’t put off having a bowel movement if you have the need. Waiting will make the stool harder.

·        Use a footstool to raise your knees when using the toilet.

·        Give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet and attempt to relax your muscles.

·        Use laxatives and other medications sparingly. Always consult a doctor or pharmacist before using them.