Constipation is very painful and frustrating.Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. It affects approximately 2% of the population in the U.S. Women and the elderly are more commonly affected. Though not usually serious, constipation can be a concern.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. The normal length of time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. Some people have bowel movements three times a day; others, only one or two times a week. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool or feces become harder and more difficult to pass.
One can considered constipated if he/she have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time.
- Hard stools more than 25% of the time.
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time.
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.
A common misconception about constipation is that wastes stored in body are absorbed, are dangerous to health, and may shorten our lifespan. Some people have an underlying fear that they will be "poisoned" by their own intestinal wastes (feces) if they retain the waste in their bodies for more than a certain length of time. None of this is true.
Older people are 5 times more likely than younger people to develop constipation. But experts believe that older people become too concerned with having a daily bowel movement and that constipation in this age group is overestimated.
Constipation also can alternate with diarrhea. This pattern commonly occurs as part of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). At the extreme end of the constipation spectrum is fecal impaction, a condition in which stool hardens in the rectum and prevents the passage of any stool.
The number of bowel movements generally decreases with age. Ninety-five percent of adults have bowel movements between three and 21 times per week, and this would be considered normal. The most common pattern is one bowel movement a day, but this pattern is seen in less than 50% of people.
CAUSES OF CONSTIPATION
Constipation may result from a poor diet, poor bowel habits, or problems in elimination of stool, whether physical, functional, or voluntary.
These are the most common causes of constipation:
- Poor diet: Eating foods rich in animal fats (dairy products, meats, and eggs) or refined sugar but low in fiber (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) may cause constipation.
- Poor bowel habits: Ignoring the desire to have bowel movements may initiate a cycle of constipation.
- After a period of time, one may stop feeling the desire for opening our bowel.
- This leads to progressive constipation. For example, some people may avoid using public toilets or ignore going to the toilet because they are busy.
- Medications: Many medications can cause constipation.
- Painkillers: Narcotic-containing drugs, for instance, may interfere with bowel functions.
- Travel: Changes in lifestyle, low fluid intake, and eating fast food may cause constipation.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon): This is one of the most common causes of constipation. Because of changes in bowel function, if you have this disorder, you may have crampy abdominal pain, excessive gas, bloating, and constipation.
- Laxative abuse: Habitually using laxatives gradually will produce dependency on them.
- Pregnancy: Constipation during pregnancy may be due to several factors. Each of the following conditions produces severe pain on defecation, which may trigger a reflex spasm of the anal sphincter muscle. The spasm may delay bowel movement and decrease the desire for bowel opening as a means to avoid the anal pain.
- Intestinal obstruction: Mechanical compressionand interference with the normal functions of the bowel may occur in the following ways:
- Age: Older adults are more likely to have constipation for these reasons
SYMPTOMS OF CONSTIPATION
You may exhibit a broad range of symptoms of constipation depending on your normal bowel habits, diet, and age. These are common problems you may have if you are constipated:
- Difficulty in starting or completing a bowel movement
- Infrequent and difficult passage of stool Passing hard stool after prolonged straining in the toilet If one have irritable bowel syndrome, crampy abdominal pain, excessive gas, a sense of bloating, and a change in bowel habits .If one have intestinal obstruction, nausea, vomiting, no defecation, and inability to pass gas Distended abdomen, headaches, and loss of appetite Coated (furred) tongue, offensive breath, and bad taste in your mouth
DIAGNOSIS OF CONSTIPATION
Most people do not need extensive testing to diagnose constipation. Only a small number of patients with constipation have a more serious medical problem. If one have constipation for more than two weeks,one should see a doctor so he or she can determine the source of our problem and treat it. If constipation is caused by colon cancer, early detection and treatment is very important.
Tests your doctor may perform to diagnose the cause of our constipation include:
- Blood tests if a hormonal imbalance is suspected.
- Barium studies to look for obstruction of the colon.
- Colonoscopy to look for obstruction of the colon.
The vast majority of patients with constipation do not have any obvious illness to explain their symptoms and suffer from one of two problems:
- Colonic inertia: A condition in which the colon contracts poorly and retains stool.
- Obstructed defecation: A condition in which the person excessively strains to expel stool from the rectum.
TREATMENT OF CONSTIPATION
If bowel is not blocked, you and your health care provider must establish realistic goals of medical treatment.
- All cases will require dietary advice. Treatment may be difficult, particularly in those with chronic constipation.
- Increased activity in the elderly and regular exercise in younger people will help.
PREVENTION OF CONSTIPATION
There are several things one can do to prevent constipation. Among them:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal (especially bran). Fiber and water help the colon pass stool.
- Drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water and other fluids a day (unless fluid restricted for another medical condition). Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks, seem to have a dehydrating effect and may need to be avoided until your bowel habits return to normal. Some people may need to avoid milk, as dairy products may be constipating for them.
- Exercise regularly.
- Move your bowels when you feel the urge.
If one are constipated, they must try the following:
- Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day (unless fluid restricted).
- Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
- Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- Eat prunes and/or bran cereal.
- If needed, use a very mild stool softener or laxative (such as Peri-colace or Milk of Magnesia). Do not use laxatives for more than two weeks without calling your doctor, as laxative overuse can aggravate your symptoms.
HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT FOR CONSTIPATION
The goal of treatment in constipation should not be a bowel movement every day, but a bowel movement every two to three days without difficulty (without straining).
Start with the simple things.
- Don't suppress urges to defecate. When the urge comes, find a toilet.
- With the assistance of your physician and pharmacist, determine if there are drugs that you are taking that could be contributing to the constipation. See if the drugs can be discontinued or changed.
- Increase the fiber in your diet by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (There are other health benefits from this recommendation as well.)
- It may be difficult to get enough fiber in the diet to effectively treat constipation, so don't hesitate to take fiber supplements if necessary (wheat bran, psyllium, etc.).
- Use increasing amounts of fiber and/or change the type of fiber consumed until there is a satisfactory result.
- Don't expect fiber to work overnight. Allow weeks for adequate trials.
What if constipation does not respond to these simple, safe measures?
Homeopathic medicines have a proven efficacy in restoring normal bowel movement. Though the cause has to be identified, and treated appropriately.
HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE FOR CONSTIPATION
Nux Vomica - Most commonly indicated medicine with sedentry lifestyle being the culprit, . It is very effective when a lot of laxatives have been taken regularly. The patient is habituated to stimulants like tea, coffee or alcohol. There is frequent, ineffectual urge for stool. One is able to pass only a small quantity at a time.Useful when diarrhoea and constipation alternate. There is a constant feeling of unease in the rectum. The patient is usually chilly. He gets angered easily. He is an achiever and a go-getter.
Bryonia - Useful for constipation with increased thirst and intake of lot of water.There is dryness of all mucous membranes and that of the whole system. Given when mouth feels dry and so do the lips.
Graphites - Useful for constipation along with obesity.There is hardly any urge to stool. There are large knotty stools that are united by mucous threads.Useful for Soreness of the anus may be seen.There is a tendency to form fissures. Other skin affections may also be present aling with the constipation.
Alumina - Useful where there is constipation even in early childhood.More indicated in children who have been artificially fed. This may mean that they have had little breast milk and have been fed bottle milk or formula feed. There is intense dryness of the intestinal tract.Useful for dry, hard and knotty. The stool may resemble that of sheep. Even a soft stool requires great straining and is passed with great difficulty.
Silicea - Useful forconstipation where the stool is partly expelled and then recedes back.The patient is usually chilly. Useful when the feaces remain long time in the rectum but are not expelled. There is great straining but hardly effective. In females, the constipation is aggravated before and during menses.
Opium - Useful for constipation where the stool is hard, dry and passed in ball-like form.Also given when the person has been taking laxatives to pass stool for a long time.
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