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Constipation: General Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Constipation?

Constipation refers to a condition of the digestive system in which there are infrequent bowel movements. The stool is often dry and hard to pass. The most common cause of constipation is the excess absorption of water from the food content. As the passage of food from the digestive tract is slow, the colon keeps absorbing water from the food henceforth, making the bowel painful.

Symptoms of Constipation

Constipation is generally described as having less than three bowel movements in a week. The main symptom of constipation is increased anxiety and straining when passing stools. Other symptoms of constipation include:
• Passing less than three stools in a week
• Dry, lumpy or hard stools
• Straining to have bowel movements
• A sense of blockage in the rectum that prevents bowel movements
• Abdominal pain
• Stomach cramps
• Bloating
• Nausea
• Losing appetite
• Frequent urge for a bowel movement

Causes of Constipation

The condition of improper bowel movement occurs when the movement of waste or stool is extremely slow through the digestive tract. This causes the colon to absorb water from the food making the feces hard, dry and difficult to expel.
The common causes of constipation are as follows:
• Insufficient intake of water: Lack of water in the body is the basic cause of constipation.
• Avoiding nature’s call: Constipation can occur if the urge to have a bowel movement is ignored again and again.
• Lack of fiber in the diet: People who consume high-fat food such as cheese, meat, and eggs are more likely to suffer from the problem of constipation. Fiber promotes bowel movements and prevents constipation. It is important to include fiber-rich foods in daily food such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
• Physical Inactivity: Physical activity keeps the metabolism of the body high making the flow of processes smooth and rapid. In the case of old people, the physical activity is comparatively less and so, higher chances of having constipation.
• Medications: The underlying are certain medicines that cause constipation
1. Antidepressants
2. Narcotic(opioid) pain drugs
3. Anticonvulsants
4. Calcium channel blocking drugs
5. containing antacid
6. Diuretics
• Milk: Some people are intolerant to milk or other dairy products. Consumption of these products leads to constipation in such cases.
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome(IBS): People who suffer from abdominal pain or have infrequent bowel movement usually face the problem of constipation.
• Pregnancy: During pregnancy, women experience hormonal changes. Also, the uterus compresses the intestine which leads to slow passage of food through the tract. These factors might cause constipation.
• Change in routine: The change in timings of meals and sleep patterns due to any reason, for example, travelling affects the digestive system. In such cases, the constipation problem is common.
• Aging: With increasing age, the metabolism slows down. Also, the muscle movement of the digestive tract as well as the intestines is not that strong.
• Excess use of laxatives: Laxatives are medicines, food or drinks to aid easier bowel movement. However, laxatives can be habit-forming and may increase a high risk of constipation when discontinued.
• Colon or rectum related problems: Colorectal stricture, tumours, scar tissues, diverticulosis compress and restrict the passages causing constipation.
• Diseases: There are certain diseases which slow down the movement of through colon, rectum or anus and cause constipation. They are as follows:
1. Neurological Disorders
2. Endocrine and metabolic conditions related to diseases
3. Systemic diseases
4. Cancer

How to Get Rid of Constipation?

Generally, constipation resolves itself with or without self-care and any medical treatment. The following simple and safety measures can help induce rapid bowel movement:
• Add more fiber to your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grains.
• Exercise, jog, walk, bike ride, swim or do anything to maintain proper circulation in the body and also to keep the bowel healthy.
• Consume plenty of liquids
• Manage your stress
• Never hold your stool
However, constipation may be chronic if any of the symptoms listed last for more than three to four months. Recurring constipation can be due to an underlying illness.
In this scenario, it is important to see a doctor, precisely a gastroenterologist.
Dr.Piyush Ranjan, the top gastroenterologist in Delhi is an expert in this field. The gastroenterologist and his team study the patient’s history, thereafter, digging in the possible causes for the problem. Chronic constipation might be due to an underlying illness or a condition and needs to be treated:
• OTC laxatives: The intake of laxatives is the ultimate solution to get rid of constipation. They are:
1. Stimulants: They cause the intestinal muscles to contract smoothly.
2. Lubricants: Help the stool move down the colon more easily. It includes mineral oil and fleet.
3. Stool softeners: It moistens the stool including Colace and Surfak.
4. Fiber Supplements: These are safe and should be taken with plenty of water.
5. Osmotics: These smoothen the movement of fluids through colon.
6. Saline laxatives: These draw water into the colon and include milk of magnesia.
7. 5-HT-4 agonists: These increase the secretion of fluid in intestines and smoothens liquid flow through the tract.
• Biofeedback Training: The therapist uses devices to help you learn to relax and tighten muscles in your pelvis. Relaxation of pelvic floor muscles at the right time during defecation can aid in easier bowel movement.
• Surgery: In extreme cases, a gastroenterologist recommends surgery. This happens if the person has an abnormal and slow bowel movement even after all treatments are done. In such cases, the surgical removal of a part of the colon may be an option. Entire colon removal is rare.

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