Constipation: General Info
What is it?
Many people think that constipation means "not going at all". Medically speaking, however, constipation is when the stools are hard and being passed less often than they usually are. It's a strain, a struggle, call it what you will.
Put simply, if you're passing stools less often and they are like hard rabbit pellets, or if producing them is a strain and painful, then you're probably constipated. Moreover, if you're spending more than a minute on the toilet then this is another sign that the motions are not moving as easily as they should be. Straining to pass hard stools can cause piles and/or small tears in the sensitive lining in and around the anus that may bleed. Many different symptoms may indicate that someone is constipated. They may experience abdominal pain; feel bloated after eating; feel full up after eating very little; pass excess wind; may feel nauseous or even vomit.
Why does it happen?
Our lifestyle is very much to blame for constipation.
Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet because we're too busy or because it's inconvenient is a common cause of constipation. In time, this may result in a loss of the reflex sensation that tells us that we need to go to the toilet.
Inactivity is another contributor. For the bowel to function well it needs people to move around during the day and in Canada statistics show that in the last few years many people have become more inactive.
Not eating enough fibre in our diet means that the stools are not bulky enough. Fibre is also needed to hold liquid in the motion that makes it soft to pass.
Everyone should be drinking around two litres of water a day. If the body is starved of liquid then it squeezes as much as it can out of the motion to absorb into the body. This leaves the motion hard and dry.
Can I stop it?
- Constipation can easily be prevented by:
- Responding to the urge to go to the toilet.
- Drinking at least two litres of water a day and reducing caffeine since this promotes fluid loss.
- Becoming more active.
- Eating more fibre - around 18 - 30 grams a day is recommended.
Should I see doctor?
Yes if the symptoms are not getting better after trying the lifestyle changes above and the laxatives described below. Stress, depression, and an under-active thyroid gland may cause constipation.
Medical advice should be sought if someone:
- notices any change in their bowel opening pattern and is over the age of 45.
- is passing blood when going to the toilet.
- loses weight without trying.
- is on medication where a side effect may be responsible for the constipation.
Constipation is common, so no man should be embarrassed if they've become a little bunged up.
Get started by making the lifestyle changes listed above. Laxatives are good for relief in the short-term but should not be relied upon. They act by:
- stimulating the bowel directly.
- increasing the amount of liquid in the motions.
This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.
© 2003 -2005 SLPM Self-care Ltd.