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