Constipation is a common digestive problem. With this condition, a person experiences infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stool. Changes in lifestyle, diet, lack of fiber, and certain medications are possible causes of constipation.
Bowel movement varies from person-to-person. Some people poop multiple times a day, and some only go twice or thrice a week. Normally, a person is considered constipated when they pass small amounts of hard, dry stool, less than three times a week.
How Common is Constipation?
Constipation is most common in women during pregnancy and pre-menopause. It is also a frequent problem for adults 65 years old and above. The possible causes of constipation in this age group are due to edentulism (toothlessness) and lack of proper diet and physical activity.
How Does Constipation Happen?
In a process called peristalsis, the muscles contract in a wave-like motion that moves the food to different organs in the digestive tract.
Peristalsis starts in the esophagus and then moves on to the small intestines where the body absorbs the broken-down nutrients. It ends in the large intestine where water from undigested food (waste) is absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining material (stool) is then eliminated through the rectum and anus.
If you suffer from constipation, this process takes longer than usual. The water from the stool that is stuck in the large intestine will continuously be absorbed by the body. The stool then becomes dry, hard, and difficult to excrete.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation can be due to different factors. The major possible causes of constipation are the following:
Lack of exercise
Being physically active helps stimulate the colon, making it easier to pass stool. Frequent sitting or being inactive in general causes constipation.
Lack of fiber in the diet
Consuming food that is low in fiber causes longer digestion, irregularity in bowel movement, hard stool, and sometimes stomach pain.
Fiber is beneficial to the body, especially to the digestive system. It nourishes the colon, aids in digestion, and ensures regular bowel movement. It is encouraged that you incorporate more fiber-enriched foods.
Changes in lifestyle
Unexpected changes in your daily habits can disrupt your regular bowel pattern. For example, when you sleep, your colon rests as well. When you wake up, the colon will start to contract again. Eating is also a factor that stimulates colon contractions.
If you suddenly change your diet, your mealtime, and sleeping habits, your bowel pattern will be affected. Learn more about how to improve your gut health.
Older adults may experience recurring constipation due to the different medications they take. Some of these drugs include tricyclic antidepressants, opioid pain relievers, incontinence medications, over-the-counter cold remedies, and nonprescription sleeping pills.
Insufficient fluid intake
Lack of hydration is another factor that causes constipation. When you are dehydrated, your colon will absorb all the water it can get from undigested food. This makes the stool hard and lumpy.
Holding in the stool for too long
Ignoring the feeling that you need “to go” may result in more difficult and uncomfortable bowel movements. When your stool stays inside the rectum for a long time, your colon will absorb all the water it contains.
The stool you hold onto will then be compacted with the newer waste. This builds up over time, making it harder and sometimes more painful for you to push out stool.
The use of laxatives is justifiable when constipation becomes hard to manage. However, excessive use of this medication can create problems in your bowel pattern.
Long-term use of laxatives may contribute to your persisting constipation. When you fully depend on laxatives, you may inflict damage to the digestive system as a whole.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies for Constipation
The following are lifestyle changes you can adopt and home remedies you can use to help alleviate constipation.
Increase consumption of fiber-rich food
Consuming fiber-rich foods like whole grains, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables can help regulate your bowel movement and prevent constipation. Make sure to only take the recommended fiber level as too much fiber can cause bloating and gas.
Common physical activities such as walking and generally being more active can help in contracting the muscles in your colon. Exercising most days of the week promotes a healthier colon and easy bowel movement.
Do not ignore the need to “go”
When you feel the urge to poop, do so. Do not suppress or hold in your stool. Take your time in the bathroom and make sure that nothing is left.
Anyone can experience constipation. Being aware of the possible causes of constipation and its remedies can help you prevent and address any future case of this digestive problem.
Do not forget to consult a medical professional for any concerns.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.