What Is Constipation?Your digestive system is remarkably efficient. In the space of a few hours, it extracts nutrients from the foods you eat and drink, processes them into the bloodstream and prepares leftover material for disposal. That material passes through about 20 feet of intestine before being stored temporarily in the colon, where water is removed. The residue is excreted through the bowels, normally within a day or two.
Depending on your diet, your age, and your daily activity, regularity can mean anything from three bowel movements a day to three each week.
If fecal material sits in the colon, the harder the stool becomes and the more difficult it is to pass. A normal stool should not be either unusually hard or soft, and you shouldn't have to strain unreasonably to pass it.
What Causes Constipation?Our busy, modern lifestyles may be responsible for most cases of constipation: not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water, not getting enough exercise, and not taking the time to respond to an unmistakable urge to go to the bathroom. Persistent, chronic constipation may also be a symptom of more serious conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, or an underactive thyroid gland.
Bowel habits tend to vary with age and circumstances. Bottle-fed babies, for example, tend to have firmer stools and more bouts of constipation than breast-fed babies. Some children become constipated when they start school or other activities, because they are embarrassed to ask permission to use the toilet. Toddlers often become constipated during toilet training if he or she is unwilling or afraid to use the toilet. Being sensitive to pain, children may avoid the toilet if they have minor splits or tears in the anus from straining or other irritations.
Older people, especially those who are more sedentary, tend to develop constipation more often..
Medications that can cause constipation include narcotics, diuretics, iron supplements, antacids, and drugs for blood pressure, seizures and depression.
What Are the Treatments for Constipation?Most cases of constipation respond to conservative treatment, such as dietary and exercise changes or mild laxatives.
Your doctor will probably start treatment by recommending more fiber or bulk in your diet. Except for fiber or bulking agents, over-the-counter laxatives should be avoided. Your doctor will also encourage you to take adequate time for moving your bowels and not to suppress the urge to have a bowel movement. Increasing your exercise is also important if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. For stubborn constipation in older children or adults, the doctor may recommend a non-digestible sugar called lactulose or specially formulated electrolyte solutions. Polyethylene glycol (Miralax) is available over the counter for short-term use in constipation in children and adults. Amitiza and Linzess are prescription drugs for long-term use in chronic constipation in adults and the elderly.
Fecal impaction is a more serious form of constipation that sometimes affects the elderly and disabled. To release hardened material in the rectum, a doctor inserts a gloved finger and manually breaks up the solidified stool. A gentle enema using warm water or mineral oil may also be helpful.
If problem still persist then seek doctor advice.