Do you discharge stool more than thrice a week? Do you easily pass stool? If you answered no to both questions, you may be experiencing constipation.
Excretion is a process that starts in the colon. The colon’s main function is to absorb water from residual food as it passes through the digestive system. This process creates the stool. After this, the colon’s muscles propel the waste out through the rectum for excretion.
When the colon’s muscle contractions are slow, the stool remains in the colon for an extended time becoming hard, because of the lack of water being absorbed. The hard stool then becomes difficult to pass.
Constipation is commonly caused by three things:
- Common lifestyle causes
- Low fiber diet
- Meals high in meat, milk, cheese, or processed food
- Dehydration – water helps keep stool soft, making it easier to excrete.
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Changes in one’s regular routine (ex: traveling)
- Strong pain medication
- Antacids containing calcium or aluminum
3. Medical and health conditions
- Endocrine problems (ex: Hypothyroidism and Diabetes)
- Neurologic disorders (ex: spinal cord injury)
- Lazy bowel syndrome
- Structural defects in the digestive tract
Treatment for Constipation
There are a myriad of over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs designed to treat constipation. While readily available, it is wise to consult with your doctor first and not self-medicate.
While laxatives are effective, it is not recommended as a go-to for forcing bowel movement. Frequent use of laxatives may develop a dependence, thus making bowel movement even more difficult to pass naturally.
Oftentimes, constipation can be treated through diet and lifestyle changes. Surgery is rarely needed unless constipation is caused by a structural problem in the colon.
- Stay hydrated and drink 2 liters of water every day.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake as these may contribute to dehydration.
- Include 18 to 30 grams of fiber-rich food in your daily meals. Raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and bran cereal are common sources of fiber which you can match with other food for taste.
- Reduce your intake of low-fiber food such as meat, milk, cheese, and processed food.
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress by including relaxing activities in your routine.
- Do not ignore the urge to pass stool.
- Sitting with your knees higher than your hips (may use a foot stool).
It always pays to be informed.
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