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Constipation FAQs

Following are the common questions about Constipation:
  1. What is constipation?
  2. What are the types of constipation?
  3. What are the causes of constipation?
  4. What are the symptoms of constipation?
  5. How is constipation diagnosed?
  6. What are home remedies for constipation?
  7. What precautions can I take to avoid constipation?
  8. Which over the counter laxatives are available to treat constipation?
  9. How can ayurveda help to cure constipation?
  10. Which yoga poses help in digestion?
  11. What is constipation in children?
  12. What is the cost of treatment for constipation?
  1. What is constipation?

    The word constipation is derived from Latin word “constipare” which means clump together. Person suffering from constipation finds it difficult to pass stools and empty bowels. He/she may experience infrequent bowel movements. It is related to digestive system and excretory system. If stools are not emptied on time, they become hard.

    Severe constipation leads to obstipation and fecal impaction. Obstipation is failure to pass gases and stools and fecal impaction is immobile, solid bulk of feces that gets accumulated in rectum. Bowel obstruction can become fatal if left treated.

    Constipation is a symptom that shows there is some problem with digestion and excretory system. It is not a disease. It is a common symptom and every individual suffers from constipation at least once in his lifetime.

  2. What are the types of constipation?

    Constipation can be divided into two types- obstructed defecation and Colonic Inertia (slow transit).

    • Obstructed defecation results because of functional and mechanical causes of digestive and excretory system.

    • Colonic Inertia (slow transit) results because of hormonal disorders like hypothyroidism, diet, metal toxicity, side effects of medications etc.

  3. What are the causes of constipation?

    Causes of constipation can be attributed to various factors such as diet, excessive medication, lack of exercise, etc. Let us see each of these causes in detail.

    • Diet: Diet plays a major role in effective bowel flow. Genetically modified foods, addition of GMO's, processed foods, high intake of salt and sugar, consuming too much of coffee and tea, excess alcohol etc., have serious effects on digestion. All these foods hinder the process of digestion and interfere with nutrient absorption in bloodstream.

      Diet low in fiber is another major cause of constipation. Insufficient consumption of fibrous foods leads to accumulation of waste products in the gastrointestinal tract or in the colon.

      Consuming too much of dairy products can cause constipation in people who are lactose-intolerant. Lactose is a sugar that is present in milk and dairy products.

    • Lack of fluids: Dehydration or lack of water molecules in body results in constipation. If you do not drink enough water, toxic materials remain in body and their accumulation can give rise to various diseases; constipation being one of them. Please note that drinking aerated drinks or sodas do not count as fluids. They do more harm to the body than any good.

    • Lack of exercise: Lack of exercise decreases your metabolic rate, makes your body lethargic and interferes in secretion of gastrointestinal juices that help in digestion.

    • Excessive medication: Excessive medication interferes with function of kidney and can cause various kidney disorders. Medications are necessary, but frequent heavy dose of painkillers, vitamin and mineral supplements, protein supplements etc., reduces effectiveness of kidney function and this leads to accumulation of unfiltered waste in parts of kidney. Such situation can be fatal and may even lead to kidney failure. Hence, it is very important to take medications after consulting with doctor. Too much of protein is like an enemy for kidney.

    • Stress: Stress is another major culprit of constipation. You can observe that the days when you are happy and stress-free, your bowels are easily emptied. But, when you are under tension and stress, your stomach is unhappy and hormonal imbalance leads to digestive problems.

    • Age: Aging reduces efficiency of digestive system. It is not that easy for the intestines to digest food as they used to do earlier in young age. Frequent heavy meals, fried and spicy items also cause indigestion. Red meats and raw foods are difficult to digest and if not digested properly lead to accumulation of wastes.

    • Pregnancy can also cause temporary constipation problems.

    • Consuming foods in wrong combinations like meat and milk etc., can cause food poisoning and may result in hard bowel movements.

    • Structural and functional abnormalities of excretory system and digestive system, anal cancer, Parkinson disease, anal fissures etc., can cause constipation.

  4. What are the symptoms of constipation?

    Constipation is a sign that your body is communicating with you to tell that there is something wrong with excretory system. These signs should not be ignored, otherwise they will advance further and affect your overall health. Common indications of constipation are mentioned below:

    • Infrequent bowel movements
    • Painful bowel movements
    • Feeling of bowels not getting emptied completely
    • Small or hard stools
    • Swelling in abdomen Water retention
    • Feeling sluggish and uncomfortable
  5. How is constipation diagnosed?

    If you have been facing trouble of emptying bowels since more than two weeks, perhaps its time to visit your doctor. It's better to not delay your appointment with doctor as it may further increase your problems. Diagnostic tests for constipation includes blood test (Thyroid Test) and colonoscopy.

    • Blood test (Thyroid Test) is done to determine hormone levels in body
    • Colonoscopy is a test used to determine blockages in colon.
  6. What are home remedies for constipation?

    You can opt for home remedies for at least a week to cure constipation. If symptoms exist even after two weeks, it is better to consult with a doctor. Here are some home remedies enlisted:

    • Drink a glass of lukewarm water every morning after you wake up. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and add few tablespoons of honey in lukewarm water. Consuming this drink on empty stomach every morning, helps in relieving constipation. Lemon juice stimulates bowel movements whereas honey gives instant energy. You may even add a pinch of red pepper powder to this drink.

    • You may even consume triphala powder before going to bed. Triphala is an ayurvedic medicine for indigestion and consists of amla powder, beheda powder and hirda powder. You will experience the power of this ayurvedic medicine next morning. These ingredients facilitate bowel movement and help to flush out toxins from the body.

    • Include as much as salad possible in your diet. Cucumber, lettuce, raw veggies, tomatoes, melons, carrots etc. are all good sources of fiber. Chia seeds, flax seeds, lentils, oats and prunes help in aiding digestion process. Soaked raisins act as mild laxative and can provide some relief to constipation patients. Fiber helps in regulating bowel movements; thereby keeping colon clean. Roughage or fiber is not digested by our body and thus is of zero nutritional value to our body. But, it is one of the most important component of balanced diet as it helps in excreting waste products from body by regulating bowel movements.

    • Grease your intestines. It implies adequate consumption of oil and ghee. Ghee activates production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) in stomach and aids in digestion. Consume at least teaspoon of extra virgin oil or any nut based cold pressed oil to reap maximum benefits. Oils help in moisturizing digestive tract and helps in absorption of vitamins and minerals into bloodstream.

    • Baking soda can come to your rescue in terms of constipation. Baking soda is scientifically known as sodium bicarbonate. When it reacts with hydrochloric acid present in stomach, it forms salts, carbon-dioxide and water as byproducts. This accelerates bowel movement and cleanses colon.

    • Increase your fluid intake. If you get bored of consuming normal water, you can add some taste or flavor to it by infusing some lemon juice, ginger juice, mint leaves, basil leaves etc. Basil leaves add a beautiful flavor and aroma to water. Sugarcane juice, coconut water, cold milk, fruit and vegetable juices are good options to keep your body hydrated.

    • Green tea is another option that will help you to cleanse your system. Also, green tea is available in various flavors such as mint, ginger, honey, lemon, etc. Regular consumption of green tea will not only help in constipation, but also increase metabolic rate.

  7. What precautions can I take to avoid constipation?

    Constipation is not an overnight symptom. Maintaining healthy lifestyle and being in synchrony with nature can prevent occurrence of constipation. Here are some precautionary measures enlisted below that can keep constipation at bay:

    • Strictly avoid colas and soft drinks. Aerated drinks are a big no for health and prove hazardous; especially in times of constipation. Alcohol should also be consumed in limited quantity.
    • Avoid over consumption of dairy products. Eat balanced diet with correct proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
    • Quit smoking altogether
    • Alcohol and caffeine dehydrates body
    • Visit washroom whenever you feel the urge. Do not suppress your urine as it exerts undue pressure over bladder.
    • Regular exercise increases rate of metabolism. Increased rate of metabolism accelerates speed of digestion.
    • As you age, avoid consumption of red meat. Red meat is hard to digest and with increasing age, digestive capacity diminishes slowly.
  8. Which over the counter laxatives are available to treat constipation?

    Over the counter laxatives are used as last option for treatment. Consult with doctor before taking these laxatives.

    • Stimulants: Stimulants include Correctol, Senokot and Dulcolax. These stimulants work on stomach muscles and control their action.

    • Lubricants: Lubricants include mineral oil and fleet. They enable easy bowel movements through colon.

    • Stool softeners: Colace and surfak are two stool softeners that help in re-hydrating stool.

    • Fiber supplements: Fiber supplements are also called as bulk laxatives and are one of the most safest options. FiberCon, Metamucil, Konsyl, Serutan and Citrucel are some of fiber supplements. Note that you will have to consume plenty of water after taking these supplements.

  9. How can ayurveda help to cure constipation?

    Ayurveda is ancient medicinal science that has been practiced in India since ages and whose effectiveness is highly regarded. Ayurveda perceives constipation as over secretion or under secretion of vata (cold). This makes the colon dry and eventually cause constipation. It can be balanced by consuming foods that provide warmth to body. Below are few ayurvedic solutions that can provide some relief in constipation:

    • Drink lot of warm water or hot water. Warm water activates metabolism activity and improves process of digestion. It also helps in balancing vata's cold quality.

    • Drink herbal tea with infusion of ginger juice, lemon grass and basil. This combination keeps body warm and helps in digestion.

    • Do not be over-conscious when consuming organic oils. Yes, oils do have lot of calories in them, but are indispensable for health. Oils grease digestive track, cleanse colon and increase effectiveness of vitamin and mineral absorption. Also remember that fatty acids present in oils are important to dissolve vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Without the presence of fatty acids, these vitamins become of no use to the body.

    Vitamin C and Vitamin B-Complex group are water soluble vitamins. Drinking two tablespoons of organic or cold pressed castor oil cleanses colon more effectively than any other oil.

    • Ayurveda suggests to drink warm milk with few drops of ghee before bedtime. This drink not only induces sound sleep, but also nourishes tissues of digestive system.
    • Triphala can be consumed in the form of tablet or powder. It is an ayurvedic medicine for constipation.

    The above mentioned tips if followed regularly, help to keep digestive tract healthy in long run.

  10. Which yoga poses help in digestion?

    Yoga has its origins in India and has been practiced by sages. Yoga connects mind and body. Practice of yoga should not be limited to few days, but it should be converted into lifestyle. We have enlisted few yoga positions that help to boost digestion process:

    • Sarvangasana
    • Vajrasana
    • Trikonasana
    • Janusirsasana
    • Bhujangasana
    • Balasana
  11. What is constipation in children?

    Problem of constipation in babies and children is common. A child suffering from constipation passes irregular and hard stool. Breast milk fed baby is less likely to suffer from constipation than bottle-fed (infant formula) baby. Breast milk is easily digestible and contains enzymes that protect baby from diarrhea.

    A new born baby may pass stool with every feed. Some babies may not pass stool for over a week. This is absolutely normal and is not cause of any concern.

    Poor appetite, irritating and unhappy behavior, tummy ache are few common symptoms that a constipated child will exhibit. If child does not empty bowels for more than a week, you should consult with doctor to understand the exact cause.

    It is important that parents inculcate healthy eating habits in their children since childhood. These habits are carried on in future and help your child evolve into a healthy individual.

    Colors appeal to children and putting healthy, multicolored food on plate will make it irresistible for child to devour.

    Generally, children follow their parents. If parents themselves eat unhealthy stuff, children may as well unconsciously follow the same habit. Hence, parents should take care of what they are putting into their mouth.

  12. What is the cost of treatment for constipation?

    Cost of treatment for constipation depends on the type of treatment suggested by the doctor. Treatment is usually in the form of medications and very rarely surgery is involved. So the average cost of constipation treatment ranges from few hundreds to few thousands. Also, diagnosis of constipation includes blood test and colonoscopy. Cost of these two diagnostic tests varies from hospital to hospital. It is affordable and may range in thousands.