You heard the name right, didn’t you? Yeah! Constipation!. Who is that saint that has never been constipated before? Let him, please be the first to cast the stone (lol). Okay, drop that junkie for a minute and read this; Constipation is unarguably the most commonly used household terminology when we find it hard to pass stool. It is also the most common gastrointestinal complaint in major hospitals. But how much do we know of this condition, the causes and ways to prevent it?
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent, and stools become difficult to pass. This happens mostly because of changes in diet or inadequate intake of fiber. It is important to call a doctor if you have severe pain, presence of blood on your stools, or have been constipated for over three weeks. In constipated individuals, these things are to be noted:
- The stools are usually dry and hard.
- Bowel movement is painful, and stools are difficult to pass.
- There is a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels.
- Stomach ache or cramps.
- feeling bloated and nauseous.
Constipation can occur in people of all ages, but certain people and situations are more likely to lead to constipation, and these include:
Age: Old people have a slower metabolic rate, less muscle contraction along the gastrointestinal tract, and are less active. This increases their chances of being constipated when compared to younger individuals.
Pregnancy: Constipation during pregnancy is very common. This occurs because of the hormonal changes that happen in the woman’s body during that phase. Also, during. Pregnancy induced constipation occurs because of the weight of the fetus on the intestinal walls, lowering bowel motility.
Not eating enough high-fibre foods: Foods that are rich in fibers, such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, are essential in preventing constipation.
Medication: certain medications can lead to constipation. It is important to inquire from the physician if a certain medicine can lead to constipation or not.
Disease conditions: digestive conditions, brain and spinal conditions, and certain hormonal conditions can all lead to constipation.
How constipation happens
The food we eat normally passes through the digestive tract, where nutrients are absorbed. The partially digested food or waste that remains moves from the small intestine to the large intestine also called the colon. In the large intestine or colon, water is reabsorption from this partially digested food or waste, which creates a solid matter called stool. Excess water reabsorption causes the stool to become solid, hard, or even rock-like, leading to constipation. Food may move too slowly through the digestive tract in such cases. This gives the colon adequate time to continue reabsorbing water from the waste, making the stool harder and harder. The stool becomes dry, hard, and difficult to push out.
Effect of Constipation
A few complications could happen if you don’t have soft, regular bowel movements. Some of these complications include:
Haemorrhoids: These are known to cause swollen veins in and around the rectum.
Tears in the anus lining because of difficulty passing out the hardened stool. This often leads to traces of blood on the stool and pain and discomfort.
Diverticulitis: This is an infection in the large intestine because of stool buildup.
Damage to the pelvic muscles occurs because of straining and excessive push to move the bowels. The pelvic muscles control bladder movements. When much straining happens for too long, there is a possibility of urine leaking. This condition is called urinary incontinence.
What are the causes of constipation?
Constipation can be caused mainly by lifestyle, medication, medical conditions and pregnancy.
- Eating foods that are low in fiber.
- Not drinking enough water which leads to dehydration.
- Not getting enough exercise.
- Eating large amounts of milk, cheese and other dairy products
- Stress, anxiety and sleeplessness are often from work overload.
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement.
Certain medications like pain medicines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antacids, some allergy medicines and medicines for blood pressure reduce bowel motility, leading to constipation.
Certain medical conditions involving the endocrine system, nervous system, etc have been implicated in constipation.
Treatment of constipation
Constipation, especially mild-to-moderate forms, can be managed at home through self-care. Self-care starts by noting diets and when to make changes.
When constipated, it is important to:
- Drink enough water daily ( two to four glasses)
- Avoid caffeine drinks and alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
- Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber diets.
- Avoid diets rich in milk and cheese
- Engage in exercise to increase blood flow to the body.
This involves prescription medications and laxatives. A medical professional often prescribes medications he/she feels are better based on the severity of constipation.
Surgery procedures are often the least important in treating constipation. They only become necessary in severe cases that involve tears and intestinal obstruction.
Prevention of constipation
How can I prevent constipation? How do I ensure I prevent another recurrence after my last experience? If these questions and more run through your mind, then it is important to note that: Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber is essential when on a course to prevent constipation. Excellent sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fruits such as Apples, mangoes, pineapples, oranges, etc. are the primary source of Fibres. They are relatively affordable and can be taken in different forms; for example, a smoothie of 100%fruits is highly recommended. Drinking liquids containing caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks with high sugar, can cause dehydration. It is important to stop taking them.
Exercise regularly. Taking long walks, jogging and visiting the gym often to keep fit and also improve blood circulation is essential.