Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, especially if hard stools are being passed, and physical straining is involved. If this condition lasts for more than 12 months, it is referred to as chronic constipation. Almost everyone has experienced constipation at some time, and chronic constipation affects up to 10% of the population. The chance of experiencing constipation rises rapidly as age increases beyond 65.
It is often considered to be a very private problem. You may find the whole subject distasteful and would rather not admit that you’re having problems with bowel movements. Constipation is not a disease, but is rather a symptom. Even if you would prefer not to seek the advice of a doctor, it’s important to determine the cause.
What are the causes of constipation?
One of the most common causes of constipation and one of the easiest to remedy is your diet. Specifically, if you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet, you stand a greater chance of experiencing constipation. The colon is where water is extracted from the waste matter before the waste matter is eliminated from your body. If too much water is extracted, the waste matter may become very hard and difficult to pass, causing constipation. Fiber helps to remedy this problem by retaining water and adding bulk. This means that your waste matter will move more quickly and easily through your colon.
For optimum colon health, you should be taking in at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day (instead of the five to 20 grams you’re probably getting). You can increase your fiber intake easily by eating more wheat bran, whole grain cereals, fresh fruits, dried fruits, vegetables and bread with whole grain. It’s also important to drink at least 64 ounces of fluid daily, preferably in the form of water or juice.
Poor Lifestyle Habits
Poor lifestyle habits can also be a cause of constipation. Inactivity and lack of exercise are often associated with constipation. You don’t have to run marathons or spend hours a day at the gym. A short walk or taking up the sport you enjoy are great ways to increase your activity level and have a positive effect on your constipation.
If you’re busy or stressed, you could be ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement without realizing it. The best solution for this condition is to set up a schedule for your bowel movements. Try to use the bathroom at the same time every day. And do whatever it takes to lower your stress levels.
Chronic constipation may be caused as a side effect of taking certain medications. This is especially true among the elderly. The most common medications that have been found include analgesics, antacids, anticonvulsants, certain types of antidepressants, iron and calcium supplements and diuretics. If you suspect that your medications are causing a change in your bowel movement habits, you should take this up with your physician. Never stop or start medications without seeking your doctor’s advice and direction.
You may find this difficult to believe, but laxatives can be a cause. Long-term use or abuse of laxatives can damage the nerve cells in your colon and interfere with the natural operation of the muscles of your colon. Again, you’ll need to seek medical advice to determine if it’s possible to retrain your colon to operate as it should.
In some cases, certain diseases have been linked with constipation, especially chronic constipation. Diabetes, colon cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could all be a possible cause of constipation. Its has also been connected with certain diseases of the central nervous system and hormonal changes in your body. If you suspect any of these are causing constipation, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.
Fortunately, constipation is usually only a short-term problem for most people. Even if you suffer from chronic constipation, there’s a very good chance that the cause is related to your diet and lifestyle, which are within your power to change. Living in today’s world puts a great deal of stress on your body. You can achieve a greater overall well-being if you make choices that help your body instead of hurt it.