Constipation is a sort of disease that causes stools to be hard and dry. It can be accompanied with pain in the abdominal area. The condition affects people on every age range and from any genre. There is much more to say about constipation. Next, we are going to cover all you need to know about this condition.
We will start with the origins of the discomforts you feel when you are constipated, explaining what causes constipation. Then, we will give a closer look at the symptoms, and to the occasional and chronic constipation, with the most common issues and risks. Finally, we will offer you some advice about how can you deal with constipation issues.
- 1. What is Constipation?
- 2. What Causes Constipation?
- 3. Constipation Symptoms
- 4. Occasional Constipation
- 5. Severe and Chronic Constipation
- 6. Constipation Common Issues
- 7. Baby Constipation
- 8. Constipation in Pregnancy
- 9. What Are The Risks of Constipation?
- 10. How to Deal With Constipation?
- 11. Preventing Constipation
1. What is Constipation?
Constipation is about the movements of the bowel. When they are not normal, then everything gets tight. Usually, all the digestive process slows down. It is a condition that happens with age or when you eat certain meals.
Most times it is not a big deal, and the regular bowel movements come back. What is regular is not the same on everybody. It determines how many times you take out stools. For most people, it is three times a day, but it could be one or twice. If you have 3 days without a discharge, then it is a sure sign of constipation. In such cases, the stools get very hard, and it is even harder to take them out.
2. What Causes Constipation?
Constipation is caused by different reasons. Sometimes, these reasons were not causing any problem in the past, but with age or after a stomach disease, things changed. The following is a full list of reasons to get constipated:
- Lack of fibers in the diet
- Taking few water or liquids
- Too meaty diet
- Having too many dairy products
- Having food supplements with iron, aluminum or calcium
- Any eating disorder or when changing your regular diet
- Foods that may constipate include : Bananas, chocolate, white rice, carrots, puree of low-fiber potatoes, quince, grape, coconut, oilseeds, some cereals (except bran), celery, etc.
- Laxatives used in excess
- Anticonvulsants indicated in the treatment of epilepsy
- Pain medications such as codeine and morphine, etc.
- Health conditions:
- Back pain, inflamed lumbar disc
- The irritable bowel syndrome
- Bile deficiency
- Colon cancer
- Imbalance of the intestinal flora causing most of the time hemorrhoids. This cause people to resist the urge of bowel movements
- Hypothyroidism, which is a condition when the thyroid is not as active as it should
- Problems related to the pancreas (which secretes an intestinal lubricant)
- A health condition that causes issues with the nerves or the muscles and affects the digestive system
- Some neurological disease, for example, Sclerosis or Parkinson
- Psychological conditions:
- Excessive stress
- Having a sedentary life and lack of physical activity
- When changing your usual activities
- Other risk factors:
- Being pregnant
As you can see, the list is long. Sometimes, the symptoms occur when there are more than one of these causes present in one’s life. Now, let’s cover the constipation symptoms.
3. Constipation Symptoms
The most common symptoms of constipation are:
- A swollen stomach often accompanied by ailments.
- A sensation of abdominal bloating accompanied sometimes by a noise.
- A slowing down of the stool evacuation frequency.
- Hard, dry stools that are difficult to evacuate.
- The sensation that the intestines have not been completely emptied.
- Pain or pressure in the stomach.
- Bleeding caused by pushing.
In children, constipation is a common issue. They usually visit the bathroom once a day, but it is common that they miss it for some days. Taking stools out at least three times per week is no sign of alarm. However, it is not always easy to keep track of their stools, particularly when they go to school or a daycare place. Here are some signs you can observe in small kids that suffer from constipation:
- If they cry or scream whenever they feel a bowel movement.
- If they lose appetite.
- If you find smears or any trace of liquid stool inside their underwear or diaper.
- If you observe bloating.
- When they are cranky for no apparent reason.
- When they don’t want to go to the toilet. This can be observed when the kid crosses his legs, turns red, sweats, cries, or clenches his buttocks.
- When they have a stomachache.
- When they have nausea.
4. Occasional Constipation
Occasional constipation is something anyone has suffered at some point. It is more prone on women and on any people over 65 years. This type of constipation is usually never dangerous. When it is caused by a change in your regular routine or diet, it goes away once you go back to normal.
Some people won’t even notice they are constipated before the symptoms disappear. In occasions, they are so light that it is common to disregard them. However, some other cases are stronger, and even occasional constipation can cause severe problems.
When you have an occasional constipation issue, a laxative is recommended as long as it is for 2 or 3 days. It is also recommended to find the root cause of your problem. That way you can prevent falling into the same cause and having a repetitive issue. In such cases, it can turn into a severe and chronic constipation, which is our next topic.
5. Severe and Chronic Constipation
Unlike occasional constipation, a severe and chronic constipation is something that will make you visit your doctor. The difference lies in time. Most often, with a chronic case, the bowel movements are not enough to get rid of your stools. It is as if they were stuck inside. This causes the urge to sit in the bathroom with no positive results.
A constipation case is considered chronic when the frequency you deliver stools is less than three times a week, and the problem lasts over 2 weeks. It can go as long as several months. A close observation of your bowel habits is important to determine the number of times you have bowel movements. Some people who go to the bathroom between 3 and 5 times per week are not paying enough attention and suspect of chronic constipation. However, they are working perfectly fine.
As for severe constipation, it happens when you are constipated for a long time. Your bowel gets full of stools that cannot get out. This can cause severe discomfort, and most of the constipation symptoms we listed before. Such cases need an aid to improve, and just the shift of habits is not enough to get the bowel back on track.
6. Constipation Common Issues
Now, we are going to analyze the most common issues of constipation. You will get a full comprehension of each problem.
6.1) Constipation pain
There are various ways of constipation pain, like:
- Pain associated with the bowel movements.
- Overall pain in the abdomen.
- Pain when defecating.
Constipation pain can be the source of more constipation. By triggering a psychological defense to withhold the stools, people suffering constipation will worsen the problems by fearing the pain. If you experience pain, then ask for professional help with a licensed doctor.
6.2) Bloating and constipation
Bloating is a natural consequence of constipation. Whenever the track of your intestines has air or other gases, bloating occurs. As your stools accumulate inside, the chemical reactions in the intestines cause bloating. Generally, when the stools are finally released, the bloating improves.
However, bloating can lead to other issues, like for example:
All these symptoms can withhold people from doing certain things. For example, it can be embarrassing to release gas in any way when you are at a social gathering, therefore being avoided.
6.3) Constipation and back pain
Constipation and back pain work both ways. Sometimes, constipation is the cause of back pain, while others, a back injury can cause constipation. In both cases, it can all be explained by physical means. If there is inflammation next to the colon and intestinal area, stools can be blocked. As a consequence comes constipation. The same happens the other way.
Usually, both issues are eliminated when the stools that block the path get out. The problem is that to do so, often you need to get in at least liquids with some laxative. Even before any treatment, just eating and continue your regular life will cause the more fecal material to accumulate. That will create additional pressure that will lead to more pain.
An indirect way in which back pain can cause constipation is by the use of particular medication. In particular, when the lower back pain is chronical, painkillers and other drugs that can cause constipation are used. Antidepressants are also common, and they could be another source of constipation.
6.4) Can constipation cause fever?
It is not common, but constipation may cause fever. This is usually the consequence of the unusually full bowels pushing other organs. When constipation is the symptom of another disease, like an infection, then it is not constipation itself, but the infection that causes the fever. In any case, it is all part of the frame.
Babies and kids suffering from this condition are more prone to experience fever. When a baby has a fever, it is always a good idea to check if he is constipated. Kids who are retaining stools voluntarily in their resistance to go to the bathroom on their own also can have a fever. In most of these cases, eliminating constipation will cease the fever. However, it is always a good idea to ask the pediatrician, just to be sure that there is not another issue.
7. Baby Constipation
Baby constipation can be one of the most frustrating things, particularly for new moms. The problem with babies is that poop can come not very often, even once a week. The constipation case occurs when there are other symptoms, like discomforts and poop that looks different, like little marbles.
The only real sign is the stools. Discomforts are vague, and they can be caused by practically anything. Since babies cannot talk yet, it is hard to find out information. That is why observation is critical.
Note that constipation is rare when a baby is fed with liquids only. It is until it starts a diet based on solid foods that he can experience a constipation case. In particular, when the baby changes his diet, it is more common.
8. Constipation in Pregnancy
Constipation in pregnancy is a very common issue. Practically half of the pregnant woman get a constipation problem in particular point of the pregnancy period. Due to all changes inside the woman’s body, the bowel is affected. Since it is very close to the womb where the baby grows, it is one of the first organs to get affected. The production of more progesterone is related to the constipation issues during pregnancy. Certain supplements like iron can also cause and increase constipation.
Some preventive measures you can take is exercise routines for pregnant women, eating lots of fiber, and drinking plenty of water. Also, going to the bathroom on a regular basis is recommended.
9. What Are The Risks of Constipation?
Occasional constipation most times goes without consequences. The problem is when it becomes chronical. The worse is that it has serious effects on the quality of life, causing stress and a sense of something going wrong.
Some complications of constipation include:
- Major disorders in the colorectal area.
- Worse of other conditions like hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer.
- Dysbacteriosis, or the lack of normal intestinal flora.
- In pregnant women, it can cause severe issues and even miscarriage.
- Colon cancer.
If you suffer a prolonged constipation case, make sure you get medical attention to prevent getting to these extremes. Practically all of them are preventable if you work with your doctor right on time.
10. How to Deal With Constipation?
To deal with an occasional problem of constipation is easy. You just need to follow this advice:
- Add fiber to your diet. Fruits and vegetables are good options. Other options are cereal (bran), and prunes.
- Drink more water. Usually, from two to five extra bottles or glasses is recommended.
- Warm liquids help more than another water sources. Drink them early in the morning for better results.
Other ways to deal with constipation is by using one of the many softener products or laxatives on the market. You don’t need a prescription. The best is to have them for 3 to 7 days. Afterward, your system should go back to normal.
Beware of using a laxative for too long. Two weeks or more can be harmful to your health. The symptoms of constipation could get worse.
Relieving constipation is a matter of changing the way you live. See our next section on preventing constipation to know more about what should be doing. It usually works within few days. When the issue stays for over 2 weeks, it is time to call your doctor. Some cases take months to regulate the bowel movements again.
11. Preventing Constipation
The best way to go with constipation is to avoid it. That is easier than trying to fix the problem once it is present. Our best advice is that you:
- Eat a lot of fiber by adding it to your diet naturally. Some examples of foods you can add to your diet are fruits, vegetables, grains (whole), bread made out of whole grains, cereal (bran), and légumes, except thos that can cause constipation (see section 2)
- Make sure your diet is balanced.
- Drink 2 liters of plain water plus other fluids per day.
- Take out any product with caffeine, like coffee.
- Reduce your milk intake and derivate products.
- Do regular exercise, making sure you work out for 30 minutes every day.
- Do not restrain your urge to go to the bathroom.
In general, constipation is benign and disappears on its own within a few days. However, if it persists, some complications can sometimes occur and their consequences can be serious. So, never let a constipation settle down and persist. The first thing to do to fight constipation is to know its cause. The golden rule is to have a healthy and balanced diet to ensure a healthy life.
We have seen in this article the different causes, symptoms and risks of constipation. Soon, we’ll show you how to fight it in a next article.