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When Does Constipation Become Dangerous

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How To Treat Constipation

Constipation: How To Avoid It And Treat It

Things that contribute to constipation can include stress, diet, and lack of physical activity. A person may also find they dont poop as often as they age because their intestines tend to move more slowly. There are many treatments available to help relieve constipation and promote regular bowel movements. These include:

  • Drinking at least eight glass of water a day. Waste in the intestines absorbs water, helping to stimulate the bowels to move.
  • Exercising. Exercise can act as an outside massage to the bowels by promoting movement. The exercise doesnt have to be high-impact to be effective. Even going on regular walks can help, especially after eating.
  • Cutting back on dairy products. Dairy products can have a constipating effect on the body. Limiting ones intake to one to two servings per day can help.
  • Increasing fiber intake. Dietary fiber helps to add bulk to the stool. This promotes intestinal movement . Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all usually excellent sources of dietary fiber.
  • Avoiding foods known to worsen constipation. These include high-fat or low-fiber foods, such as chips, fast foods, meat, and highly processed foods like hot dogs.

In addition to making lifestyle changes, you may wish to temporarily take stool softeners, such as docusate sodium . This can make stool easier to pass.

Doctors can prescribe other treatments as well. An example is the medication linaclotide , which can help speed up the intestines so a person has more bowel movements.

Why Constipation Is More Common As You Age And What To Do About It

Getting older brings a bunch of bodily changes. And constipation is indeed one of those age-related health issues. Yep: As you accumulate candles on your birthday cake, you’re more bound to get backed up.

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We spoke to Reezwana Chowdhury, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, to better understand the causes of constipation in older adults, plus what you can do to help keep your bowels unblocked.

Q: Is Constipation Ever An Emergency

A: It can be, but most often is not.

It would be an emergency if you hadnt had a bowel movement for a prolonged time, and youre also experiencing major bloating or severe abdominal pain, notes Dr. Zutshi.

Slight symptoms will not take you to the emergency room. You should go to the emergency room if your symptoms are severe.

Other warningsigns to watch for are:

  • Vomiting.

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Go When You Feel The Urge

People who hold in stool and wait to go later are causing themselves damage down the road, Dr. Chowdhury says. By delaying defecation, you’re essentially developing harmful habits and training your muscles to do the wrong thing.

“So when you have that urgency, you should go,” Dr. Chowdhury says â right away.

Why Constipation Is Dangerous

5 health risks of chronic constipation

Is constipation dangerous? Do you know why constipation is dangerous? Constipation doesn’t simply stop with bowel issues. It also causes bloating, nausea and pain in the abdomen too.

The first issue with constipation is that it slows down your digestive abilities. The waste material gets stuck up inside the system for long and takes more time to get eliminated.

That could cause discomfort and also certain other health disorders including anal fissures, hemorrhoids, urological disorders and certain other colon related issues. Read on to know more.

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When Should I Call My Doctor

  • Constipation is a new problem for you.
  • You see blood in your stool.
  • You are losing weight unintentionally.
  • You have severe pain with bowel movements.
  • Your constipation has lasted more than three weeks.
  • You have symptoms of outlet dysfunction constipation.

Remember, talk openly and honestly with your doctor about your bowel movements and any questions or concerns you may have. Pooping is something we all should be doing. Constipation may be a temporary situation, a long-term problem or a sign of a more serious condition. Be safe. See your doctor, especially if youve noticed a change in your bowel pattern or if your life is being ruled by your bowels.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/07/2019.

References

Vomiting Stool Or Bile

Vomiting stool or bile can indicate a bowel obstruction. The vomit may smell like stool, and it may be dark brown or brown-purple. If a person vomits bile, the vomit may be greenish-yellow.

Vomiting stool is a medical emergency that requires decompression of the stomach. If possible, the doctor will insert a tube through the nose a nasogastric tube and use it to suck out the stomach contents.

This procedure will also remove any excess air that causes discomfort and swelling in the bowel.

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Decrease In Gut Motility

As we age, we lose muscle mass, and this can affect gut motility and contribute to constipation in older adults. That’s because the intestinal walls are lined with layers of muscle, which contract to move food through your digestive system. So when these muscles aren’t working as well as they used to, you might find yourself backed up.

Indeed, when you get older, the muscular activity in your intestinal tract tends to decline, which lengthens the time it takes for poop to pass through the intestines, according to the University of Michigan Health.

There’s also an age-related decrease in the number of gut cells that involve propulsion, Dr. Chowdhury says. This means that your gut produces fewer contractions to squeeze stool along the digestive tract, which slows down your gut transit time and can cause constipation.

âFix it:â If your poop problem is due to a decrease in gut motility, your doctor might prescribe you a medication to help promote colon muscle movements, Dr. Chowdhury says.

Dont Linger On The Toilet

Do We REALLY Have 5 to 20 lbs of Toxic Poop in Our Colons?

A lot of people use toilet time as an opportunity to read the paper or catch up on their social media. But that’s a major mistake, because sitting on the throne for too long can predispose you to poop problems in the future.

The longer you sit there, the more potential damage you’re doing to your rectum and pelvic floor muscles, especially if you strain, Dr. Chowdhury says.

So how long should a stool session be? Five minutes, tops. “If it’s not coming out, get up and do something else,” Dr. Chowdhury says.

And leave your cell phone in another room. “It’s not the time to get on Facebook or Instagram,” she says.

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How Long Can You Go Without Pooping

A normal pooping frequency is anywhere from three times a day to every other day. Most people notice a pattern in their bowel habits. People tend to poop at about the same time each day.

Doctors define constipation as pooping two or fewer times per week. If you experience constipation, you should treat it promptly. Otherwise, stool can back up in the intestinal system, making it harder to poop and causing you to feel sick.

There isnt a defined amount of time such as one week or one month that a person could technically go without pooping. This is because everyone is different people have different diets, different states of gastrointestinal health, and a host of different lifestyle factors that contribute to their regularity. However, if you havent pooped at all in a week and youre eating as you normally would, you may need to start thinking about why you havent pooped.

Sometimes a bowel or intestinal obstruction isnt allowing stool to pass. This requires medical attention before it becomes a medical emergency. Also, some people withhold stool or physically refuse to poop due to anxiety over using the restroom.

One extreme example is that of a young woman from the United Kingdom who passed away after eight weeks of not going to the restroom, according to The Independent. The stool caused her intestines to enlarge so significantly that they pressed on her organs and led to a heart attack.

  • bloating

When You Also Have A Fever

Constipation itself doesn’t cause fevers. But if you have a fever and are constipated, that’s a strong signal to get to a doctor ASAP. Most often, it signals that you might have a condition called diverticulitis. Diverticula are small pouches that can form in the colon. They usually don’t cause problems, but sometimes they can become inflamed or infected, leading to a condition called diverticulitis. “That certainly will cause a fever along with abdominal pain,” Dr. Bedford says.

Even in mild cases, you’ll likely need a round of antibiotics to treat diverticulitis. Serious cases can cause blockages, bleeding, or tears in the colonnot something you want to mess with. If you’re constipated and develop a fever, definitely see a doctor quickly.

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What Is Constipation & Prevalence

Constipation is one of the most common digestive issues in the US. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, about 16 out of 100 adults have symptoms of constipation, and about 33 out of 100 adults ages 60 and older have symptoms of constipation. And, since much of the time constipation is not necessarily reported, these numbers may be much higher.

The main symptom of constipation is not being able to have a bowel movement. While everyone varies in their regularity, constipation is typically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. Other symptoms can include hard or lumpy stools, straining to have a bowel movement, feeling as though something is blocked in your rectum, pain when having a bowel movement, back pain, bloating, abdominal pain, and in some causes, can even cause nausea.

Things You Should Never Do When Youre Constipated

How Constipation Becomes Dangerous

Theyll only make your clogged pipes worse.

We all have those days when it’s so tough to have a bowel movement that even the throes of childbirth look like a cakewalk. In fact, it happens more often than you think: According to the Women’s Health Foundation, more than 4 million Americans suffer from frequent constipation. And as luck would have it, women are three times more likely to get blocked up than men. Some doctors speculate it’s because our colons are slightly longer, adding more twists and turnsand potential roadblocksto our digestive tracts.

But while the bloating and abdominal pain associated with a gridlocked gut may be common, the symptoms aren’t something you should simply flush down the drain. “Very severe constipation is not only very uncomfortable, but it can also lead to blockage of your colon , which then may require more invasive treatment than laxatives alone,” says Lee Ann Chen, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. Translation: The last thing you want to do when there’s a kink in your pipes is partake in anything that might plug you up even more. To help move things along when you just can’t go, make it a point to avoid these poop-blocking behaviors:

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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.

Pathway of food waste through colon, rectum and anus.

Constipation A Frequent Disorder

Who out there can say theyve never suffered from this ailment? Almost all of us have had to deal with constipation at some point in our lives others may deal with it more frequently. This means going days and sometimes even weeks without being able to go to the bathroom normally. Its a fact that not everyone is able to defecate regularly without pain however, dealing with chronic constipation means a much more serious problem.

Are you one of those people that tends to use medications to help you go to the bathroom? Sometimes, its true, you have no other option left, but, as a general rule, these medications are not recommended. Ideally, you should adjust your eating habits and other behaviors so that your body can gradually regulate this situation.

A sedentary lifestyle, a lack of fiber intake, a poor diet and not drinking enough liquids are undoubtedly the main factors that cause people to suffer from constipation. And watch out, because women are more likely to deal with this condition. Why? Its basically a matter of anatomy the female body is more vulnerable to this type of problem.

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What Are Complications Of Constipation

Constipation can cause complications, such as hemorrhoids, which occur by straining to have a bowel movement, or anal fissures which occur when hard stool stretches the sphincter muscle. This can result in rectal bleeding.

Sometimes, straining also causes rectal prolapse, where a small amount of intestinal lining pushes out from the anal opening. Constipation may also cause fecal impaction, which occurs mostly in children and older adults. The hard stool packs the intestine and rectum so tightly that the normal pushing action of the colon is not enough to expel the stool.

Signs Symptoms And Causes

Is Constipation Dangerous For My Health?

You might feel bloated and have pain, or you might have to strain when you try to go.

Some medicines, and even some vitamins, can make you constipated. You can get constipated if you do not get enough fiber, drink enough water, or get enough exercise. You can also get constipated if you put off going to the bathroom even though you have the urge to go.

Try to get to know your normal bowel movement pattern, so that you can keep constipation from getting worse.

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When Should I See My Doctor

Commonly, diet and lifestyle factors cause or contribute to constipation. However, in some cases there may be an underlying problem.

Occasionally, constipation can be a sign of an underlying condition such as bowel cancer. In such cases, there are likely to be other symptoms. These may include a recent change in bowel habits, weight loss, bleeding from the rectum or blood in stools, or abdominal pain, cramping or bloating.

If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor. Also see your doctor if you have severe constipation or constipation that is not getting better with simple lifestyle changes.

To make the diagnosis, your doctor will ask you about:

  • your symptoms,
  • any medical conditions you have
  • medicines you are taking

Your doctor may also do a physical examination. This may include:

  • feeling your abdominal area
  • gently examining your anus and rectum using a gloved finger.

Q: What Causes Constipation

A: Constipation happens when your bowel movements occur less often or cause more strain than usual. Dr. Zutshi says there are three kinds of constipation:

  • Normal transit constipation.
  • Slow transit constipation.
  • Outlet defecation syndrome or ODS, a type of chronic constipation involving hard stool and an inability to pass stool that occurs at least once a week for six months.

Normal transit and slow transit constipation are both considered motility disturbances. And to understand motility, look no further than the morning commute.

Motility is how well the roads or in this case, the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract are moving.

  • Normal transit is like driving the speed limit until some roadwork at your exit derails your expected arrival time. Stool moves through your GI system normally, but a problem such as hard stool makes it difficult to pass.
  • Slow transit is bumper-to-bumper traffic the whole way through. The muscles in your GI system contract slowly, causing the stool to take a long time to get to its final destination. You go less often, with more straining and harder stool.

And just like there are many causes for snarled roadways, there are different reasons your inner streets are backing up, such as a lack of:

  • Fiber.

You have less control over these other constipation causes:

  • Medical conditions, including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome or even a spinal cord injury.
  • Medications such as antidepressants or herbal supplements.
  • Being pregnant.
  • Stress.

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How To Fix Constipation

Constipation is typically only temporary and can be remedied by making a few simple lifestyle changes. A diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and plenty of water can help keep you from becoming constipated . In addition, regular exercise, proactively managing stress and anxiety, and creating a regular schedule for bowel movements can help keep things moving.

When You Have Severe Abdominal Pain

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As mentioned, constipation can be super uncomfortable. But if the discomfort and cramping goes from uncomfortable to seriously painful, it’s time to seek help. ” can sometimes feel worse than labor pain,” Elana Maser, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and gastroenterologist at the Feinstein IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells Health.

That kind of pain needs to be managed, even while your doctor tries to help you have a bowel movement. And the pain itself isn’t necessarily a signal that some other emergency is going onone person can be severely constipated and in little discomfort while another person is only moderately constipated but in terrible pain. “The emergency is the pain,” Dr. Maser says.

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