A lot of things can affect your bowel habits. For instance, inadequate water and fiber intake may result in constipation. But what if your inability to pass stool persists for weeks? What are the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation and how can they be managed at home?
What is Chronic Constipation?
Before we take a closer look at the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation, let’s first define the condition.
Chronic constipation happens when you experience infrequent and difficult bowel movements for weeks.
Likewise, you may pass stool, but feel that it’s “incomplete”. According to reports, having a “perceived incomplete evacuation of bowel movements” for several weeks or longer is also a sign of chronic constipation.
The Symptoms of Chronic Constipation
Do you have chronic constipation? Of course, the best way to answer that question is to head straight to your doctor for physical assessment.
The doctor will most likely ask you questions about your bowel movement, so you might want to take note of the following signs and symptoms and see if you experience any of them.
Infrequent and difficult bowel movements
If you want to know if you have chronic constipation, you need to check how many times you pass stool.
According to reports, if you experience less than 3 bowel movements in a week for several weeks, you could be suffering from chronic constipation.
Difficulty in passing stool
If you’re having difficulty passing stool, you might be suffering from constipation. But how will you know when it’s “difficult” to defecate?
Experts say it’s when you are “pushing too hard” or in other words, you’re straining.
You have hard stool
A normal, healthy stool is “sausage or snake-shaped”. Typically, its diameter resembles that of a banana and it has a soft, smooth texture.
Another characteristic of healthy stool is that it remains intact when you flush it. This indicates that the stool has an adequate amount of water in it.
When you have chronic constipation, you will most likely pass “hard” stool which could mean any of the following:
- Pebble-like stool. Having a pebble feces means you pass stool in separate, small, hard lumps. According to doctors, you may experience pain when you pass pebble-like stool because they have sat in the large intestine for an extended time.
- Lumpy, sausage stool. Do you have chronic constipation? You probably do if you see a “lumpy, sausage-like” feces. This firm stool also resembles pebbles. But they don’t separate into small, hard lumps. In other words, this stool is lumpy but still intact.
- Cracked stool. At times, you may notice even, sausage-like stool, but it has a cracked texture. Cracked stool almost looks like healthy, normal poop, except you need to strain to pass it. And when you do, you may notice the presence of cracks on the surface of the stool. This kind of stool indicates that you may be having constipation due to your diet and lifestyle.
The sensation of incomplete evacuation
Aside from infrequent and difficult bowel movement, and the passage of hard, lumpy, or cracked stool, a sensation of incomplete evacuation is also one of the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation.
What it means is that you may have had a bowel movement, but you feel that “there’s still something left” and you still want to defecate.
Other Symptoms of Chronic Constipation
If you have chronic constipation, you might also experience the following symptoms:
- A feeling that something is blocking your rectum. This could be fecal impaction, a condition wherein hard stool blocks your rectum.
- Experiencing stomachache and cramps.
- Feeling bloated and sometimes, nauseous.
When to Seek Medical Help
In seeking medical help, you don’t need to experience all of the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation. If you haven’t had any bowel movement for a long time, it’s time to go to your doctor.
Seek medical help, too, if you experience persistent and unexplained changes in your bowel habits and if you suffer from severe abdominal pain and major bloating. The other warning signs and symptoms that warrant a trip to the clinic or hospital are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bloody stool
How to Ease Chronic Constipation at Home
If you want to relieve the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation at home, the following measures might help:
- Drink plenty of water. The golden rule is to have 8 to 10 glasses daily. However, if you are severely constipated, you probably need to drink more.
- Make sure that you have enough fiber in your diet. The best sources are natural, unprocessed foods, such as fruits and vegetables. You can also consider adding nuts, beans, and oats in your meal plans.
- Get moving. Lack of exercise can also cause constipation, so it’s best to get moving. Experts say you don’t need to be an athlete to prevent constipation. Try simple exercises such as walking, jogging, or cycling.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking also increases the risk of developing constipation.
Experts reiterate that “there’s no real normal” when it comes to bowel habits. According to them, a lot of things can factor in, such as gender, age, medical conditions, medications, and even pregnancy.
As long as you regularly pass normal, healthy stool at least three times a week, and you don’t feel bad about it, there’s probably no need to worry.
Still, if you’re in doubt about having the signs and symptoms of chronic constipation, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.
Learn more about Constipation here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.