Constipation is a very common condition of the digestive system about which most people are familiar about. It affects about 20 per cent of the general population while one in five people experience chronic constipation – a problem that gets even more common in women as they get older.
One can easily become a victim of constipation if he or she does not pay adequate attention to health. For, there are a variety of factors that contribute to constipation including diet and other health conditions.
But, what is surprising is that many people conceive constipation as an issue of not having enough bowel movements. But, the reality is that it is a more complicated issue which manifests with a wide range of symptoms which mostly go unrecognized.
“So long we have a bowel movement every day we think that everything is fine, we are not constipated,” says Dr. Saumil Shah, a renowned Gastroenterologist, adding: “but you can say a person is suffering from constipation if he has just one symptom among others, going by the medical definition.”
The key symptoms of constipation include fewer than three bowel movements per week, straining to start or complete a bowel movement, stool consistency looking like rocks or pebbles and a feeling of incomplete emptying.
“People in general know what constipation is. But most people are ignorant about their symptoms and hence they do not know when they are constipated,” explains Dr. Keyur Sheth, a well-known Gastroenterologist.
Constipation, depending on severity, can give rise to a variety of health issues like abdominal pain and gas. “Straining too much during bowel movements can result in swollen anal veins, anal fissures or rectal prolapse, where a part of the rectum sticks out through the anus,” Dr. Shah ads.
From poor diet to more serious disorders there are a number of factors that result in constipation including slow transit, nerve signal problems and pelvic floor dysfunction. Slow transit means stool’s failure to move through the digestive tract quickly enough, according to Dr. Sheth.
Lower fiber diet, dehydration and taking certain drugs like antidepressants can result in slow transit while nerve issues can also impact stool movement. So, constipation can be an issue for people with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.
Mild constipation can be managed condition through simple lifestyle changes. Fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains improve gut function. But, it would advisable for people with bowel sensitivity to avoid apple, pears and watermelon.
Avoiding caffeine, drinking eight glasses of water a day can also help keep stool moving through colon. Also, it would be better not to wait when there is an urge not to go since it will only further aggravate the problem.
If the condition does not improve despite taking preventive measures, it would be better to see a doctor. One should also not ignore warning signs like weight loss, bleeding or pain or if the stools becomes pencil-thin and remains so. It is better to see a doctor asap.
In majority cases, constipation resolves itself without any treatment or health risk. However, you need to be cautious when it deteriorates into a recurring condition. For, that which needs to be ejected out should not remain inside the body!