Can Constipation Cause Internal Damage Or Lead To Other Health Problems
There are a few complications that could happen if you dont have soft, regular bowel movements. Some complications include:
- Swollen, inflamed veins in your rectum .
- An infection in pouches that sometimes form off the colon wall from stool that has become trapped and infected
- Damage to your pelvic floor muscles from straining to move your bowels. These muscles help control your bladder. Too much straining for too long a period of time may cause urine to leak from the bladder .
Get To Know Constipation
In general perception, constipation might refer to some abnormal bowel movements such as absence of stool, reduced frequency in defecation, and hard stools which are difficult to pass. Not only these abnormal conditions, constipation also includes one of these manifestations:
- Having lumpy or hard stools.
- Passing fewer than three stools per week.
- Difficult stool passage defined as needing help or longer time to empty the rectum.
- Straining to have bowel movements which might be presented with bloody stool.
- Feeling that rectum is not completely empty after bowel movement.
Constipation has been frequently found in women rather men. It can actually happen at any age groups, with more incidences in working age.
Constipation Symptoms And Signs
You are likely be constipated if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Fewer bowel movements than normal
- Pain and straining when passing stools
- Lack of exercise
- Some medicines, especially pain killers
- Some people with neurological problems such as Parkinsons disease or Multiple Sclerosis are prone to constipation
- Conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome , Colitis and Crohns Disease
- Ignoring the urge to open the bowels
- There is a strong connection between emotional feelings and how the gut works. Feeling upset can make your bowel slow down or speed up.
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Black Americans And Constipation
Though recent demographic research on constipation is hard to come by, a widely cited study of data from a survey of more than 15,000 people found that constipation was more frequent in Black Americans than in white Americans, with 17.3 percent of Black Americans reporting the condition compared with 12.2 percent of white Americans. According to the authors of a study published in Quality of Life Research, constipation may be almost three times more prevalent in nonwhite individuals compared with white individuals. Yet, the authors point out, Black individuals are underrepresented in trials for constipation treatments.
Definition & Facts For Constipation
Constipation is a condition in which you may have
- fewer than three bowel movements a week
- stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy
- stools that are difficult or painful to pass
- a feeling that not all stool has passed
However, people can have different bowel movement patterns, and only you know whats normal for you.
Constipation is not a disease, but may be a symptom of another medical problem. Constipation may last for a short or long time.
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Further Help For Constipation
You will find further information about causes and how its diagnosed on our Constipation information sheet.
If you are concerned about your problem and it is starting to affect your day to day life make an appointment to see your doctor, continence nurse or specialist physiotherapist. A continence nurse and specialist physiotherapist are healthcare professionals who specialise in bladder and bowel problems.
Can People Diagnose It Themselves
A person cannot officially diagnose themselves with a bladder prolapse, though they may be able to determine and feel that the bladder has dropped, particularly if it is severe. It is a good idea to consult a doctor if they suspect a prolapse or notice any signs or symptoms that may indicate a prolapsed bladder.
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Some Healthy Practices To Help You Reduce Constipation
What if you have the symptoms listed above? And you have a history of constipation? Find here some healthy habits that will help you reduce constipation:-
- Eat whole-grain cereals
- Engage in proper toilet training
- Treat any underlying medical conditions
- Make sure you subsist on high-fiber foods
- Find out if constipation is in your family history and take necessary prior precaution
- Never miss a daily supply of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Consider your eating habits and seek information from a nutritionist before making dietary changes
- Take away animal products from your diet
- Go for natural laxative like aloe Vera
- Maintain a regular exercise
How Common Is Constipation
You are not alone if you have constipation. Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. At least 2.5 million people see their doctor each year due to constipation.
People of all ages can have an occasional bout of constipation. There are also certain people and situations that are more likely to lead to becoming more consistently constipated . These include:
- Older age. Older people tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength along their digestive tract than when they were younger.
- Being a woman, especially while you are pregnant and after childbirth. Changes in a womans hormones make them more prone to constipation. The baby inside the uterus squishes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool.
- Not eating enough high-fiber foods. High-fiber foods keep food moving through the digestive system.
- Taking certain medications .
- Having certain neurological and digestive disorders .
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Essentials For Older People
The rectum enlarges as people age, and increased storage of stool in the rectum means that older people often need to have larger volumes of stool in their rectum in order to feel the urge to defecate. The increased rectal volume also allows hard stool to become impacted.
Other common factors in older people that lead to constipation include increased use of constipating drugs, a low-fiber diet, coexisting medical conditions , and reduced physical activity. Many older people also have misconceptions about normal bowel habits and use laxatives too often.
What To Eat When Suffering From Constipation
Digestive health is a key factor in your endeavor to prevent constipation. Therefore, your food should comprise:-
- High-fiber diet (dried figs, pinto beans, oat bran, kidney beans
- Fresh fruits and vegetables containing soluble fiber
- Whole grains and whole wheat bread, which contain insoluble fiber
- Drink plenty of water
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How Does Constipation Happen
Constipation happens because your colon absorbs too much water from waste , which dries out the stool making it hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body.
To back up a bit, as food normally moves through the digestive tract, nutrients are absorbed. The partially digested food that remains moves from the small intestine to the large intestine, also called the colon. The colon absorbs water from this waste, which creates a solid matter called stool. If you have constipation, food may move too slowly through the digestive tract. This gives the colon more time too much time to absorb water from the waste. The stool becomes dry, hard, and difficult to push out.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Constipation
In your lower GI tract, your large intestine, or bowel which includes your colon and rectum absorbs water from your digested food, changing it from a liquid to a solid .
Constipation occurs when digested food spends too much time in your colon.
It can also occur when your colon absorbs too much water, making your stool hard and dry and difficult for your rectal muscles to push out of your body.
A wide range of factors can lead to constipation. According to the NIDKK, these include:
- Delayed emptying of the colon caused by pelvic floor disorders and colon surgery
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Certain medicines and dietary supplements, including antacids that contain aluminum calcium supplements anticholinergics and antispasmodics anticonvulsants, which are used to prevent seizures calcium channel blockers diuretics iron supplements medications used to treat Parkinsons disease certain pain medications and antidepressants
A shift in your daily routine can also lead to constipation. Some people find that its more difficult to have a bowel movement while traveling, for instance. Life changes matter, too, including pregnancy as well as simply getting older. According to a report published February 2015 in Canadian Family Physician, 26 percent of women and 16 percent of men age 65 and older experience constipation on a regular basis.
Other lifestyle-related causes of constipation include:
- Not eating enough fiber
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Signs And Symptoms Of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation may also include the following:
- Lumpy, dry, or hard stools
- Stools that are hard or painful to pass
- Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum that keeps you from having bowel movements
- Feeling as though you can’t completely empty your stool
- Needing help to empty your rectum, whether by pressing with your hands on your abdomen or using a finger to remove the stool
Constipation is considered to be chronic if you’ve experienced two or more of these symptoms for the last three months, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Alternative And Complementary Therapies
While there are few high-quality studies showing that alternative therapies can effectively treat constipation, a 2015 review of studies published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture and herbal treatments like psyllium can make a difference.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation include:
- You have fewer than three bowel movements a week.
- Your stools are dry, hard and/or lumpy.
- Your stools are difficult or painful to pass.
- You have a stomach ache or cramps.
- You feel bloated and nauseous.
- You feel that you havent completely emptied your bowels after a movement.
Should I Take Laxatives And Are They Safe
Regular use of laxatives is generally not encouraged but occasional use is not harmful. Things to consider:
- The effects of laxatives are unpredictable a dose that works today may not produce an effect tomorrow.
- Laxatives can cause pain and result in the passage of loose stools especially if the dose is too high.
- Long term use can lead to the bowel becoming progressively less responsive in some people, and in these individuals it may be important to switch to a different agent.
- Certain laxatives will not work in some patients.
- While laxatives and suppositories may ease bowel opening, they dont often help the common problems of pain and bloating.
Nevertheless, the balance of scientific evidence suggests that laxatives do not cause any damage to the bowel and there is no evidence that using them puts you at risk of getting colon cancer. Sometimes doctors will advise people to take laxatives and some people do need them longer term, if your doctor has advised them, they are unlikely to be harmful in the long term. Suppositories or mini-enemas are more predictable than laxatives and tend to be very well tolerated and effective. They are especially useful for people who have difficulty with needing to strain to evacuate their bowel. It may be best to use laxatives only with proper guidance.
Taking laxatives does not result in weight loss, they work on the large bowel and most of the goodness from food is absorbed in the small bowel.
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How Is Constipation Diagnosed
Your doctor will take a medical history and do a physical exam, most likely including a gentle rectal exam with a gloved finger. They will also likely prescribe a number of routine blood tests , as well as urine and stool tests. According to the Mayo Clinic, other diagnostic tests may include:
- A sigmoidoscopy to examine the rectum and lower colon
- A colonoscopy to examine the colon
- Evaluating how well food passes through your colon with a colonic transit study
- Taking an X-ray of the rectum during a bowel movement
- A procedure known as MRI defecography
What Are The Causes Of Constipation
Medicines: Over the counter or prescription medicines often carry a side effect of constipation. If symptoms began after starting one of these drugs, ask your doctor to see if there are any alternatives. Please see Guts UK information on Opioid Induced Constipation for more information.
Emotion: there is a strong connection between feelings and how the gut works. This is called the gut brain connection, the gut and brain talk to each other, normal signals involve feeling hungry or getting butterflies Sometimes the brain and gut overshare information. Being upset or depressed can make the bowel slow down or speed up. Emotional upsets, even in childhood, may result in functional constipation many years later.
Disturbed eating behaviour: eating disorders and sustained periods of erratic eating can result in constipation, even if eating behaviour returns to normal.
Ignoring the natural urges to open bowels: ignoring bowel urges because of an aversion to public toilets or time or social constraints can result in changes to both how the bowel muscles work and the pattern of bowel opening.
Excessive straining: this can be because of difficulty co-ordinating the muscles that empty the bowel.
Irregular mealtimes reduced liquid intake and reduced physical activity: these can all worsen symptoms in people with a tendency towards constipation.
Pain, or fear of pain, on passing stools.
- Bleeding in the stool
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Check If It’s Constipation
It’s likely to be constipation if:
- you have not had a poo at least 3 times during the last week
- the poo is often large and dry, hard or lumpy
- you are straining or in pain when you have a poo
You may also have a stomach ache and feel bloated or sick.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, constipation may be easily missed. Look out for any behaviour changes, as it might mean they are in pain or discomfort.
Dietary And Lifestyle Modifications
Diet: Eating regular well-balanced meals and snacks with high-fibre content, as outlined in Canadas Food Guide, available on the Health Canada website, and maintaining an adequate fluid intake, is the recommended approach to prevent and manage constipation.
Exercise: Exercise helps move food through the colon more quickly. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, accelerates your heart and breathing rates, and helps to stimulate the natural contractions of intestinal muscles.
Physiotherapy: Pelvic dysfunction physiotherapy may include bowel retraining, electrical stimulation, and posture correction.
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Medicines And Dietary Supplements
Some medicines both prescription and over the counter can lead to constipation.
- These include some drugs used to treat depression, antacids containing aluminum or calcium, some allergy medicines , certain painkillers, some medicines for high blood pressure, diuretics, anticholinergics, antispasmodics, anticonvulsants, and drugs used to treat Parkinsons disease.
- Certain dietary supplements, such as iron, can also lead to constipation.
- Anesthesia, which is used during medical procedures to keep a person from feeling pain, can also lead to constipation.
What Effects Does Constipation Have On The Body
When the stool doesnt escape from our system, it accumulates around our digestive tract. The softer tissue binds to it during this stage, obstructing the flow.
The pressure on the colon used to remove food from your mouth can not move the stool because it is large. It may be painful or disgusting.
Constipation as an ill-health condition also has the following effects on an individuals health.
a. Bowel incontinence-This is the leakage of liquid poop
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Medical Causes Of Constipation
Constipation is sometimes symptomatic of underlying medical problems, such as:
- Slow transit some people naturally pass motions less often than most people. It seems their bowel pacemaker may be less active. These individuals are more likely to become constipated with minor changes in their routine.
- Hernia an abdominal hernia can reduce intra-abdominal pressure, which makes it more difficult to pass a motion.
- Abdominal or gynaecological surgery a combination of change in routine, strange surroundings, post-operative pain and codeine-containing analgesics is a potent cause of constipation and often needs preventive care.
- Irritable bowel syndrome characterised by abdominal pain, bloating, and either constipation or diarrhoea or alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
- Problems of the endocrine system such as hypothyroidism, diabetes or hypopituitarism.
- Tumour pain while trying to pass a stool could be a symptom of rectal cancer.
- Diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons disease or stroke are associated with an increased susceptibility to constipation.
Can Constipation Be Prevented Or Avoided
There are things you can do to reduce constipation. These include:
- Add more fiber to your diet. Adults should eat between 20-35 grams of fiber each day. Foods, such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are high in fiber.
- Drink more water. Being dehydrated causes your stool to dry out. This makes having a bowel movement more difficult and painful.
- Dont wait. When you have the urge to have a bowel movement, dont hold it in. This causes the stool to build up.
- Get physical. Exercise is helpful in keeping your bowel movements regular.
- Beware of medicines. Certain prescription medicines can slow your digestive system. This causes constipation. Talk to your doctor about how to prepare for this if you need these medicines.
- Talk to your doctor if you are being treated for certain diseases that are related to constipation. He or she may have additional guidance for lowering your risks.
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