Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint — about 4 million Americans experience constipation and make 2.5 million physician visits a year to get help for the problem. Constipation can occur when the colon absorbs too much water, the colon’s muscle contraction is slow or sluggish, and/or there is delayed transit time through the colon. The result is stool that is hard and dry.
There are several indicators of constipation….
What are Indicators of constipation?
Having at least 2 of the 6 symptoms listed below (at least 25% of the time):
-straining during bowel movements
-lumpy or hard stools
-the feeling of incomplete evacuation
-sensation of anorectal blockage
-manual maneuvers to empty bowel
-having fewer than three bowel movements per week
Any persistent change in bowel habits, such as an increase or decrease in frequency or size of stool, blood in stool, or an increased difficulty in evacuating, warrants a medical consultation.
What are normal bowel habits?
For most people, it is normal for bowel movements to occur from 3 times per day to 3 times per week. Normal stools should be about the size, shape and consistency of a ripe banana.
What are causes of constipation:
- Limited fluid and fiber intake
- Imbalances in the diet (too much sugar and animal fat)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Repeatedly ignoring the urge to have a BM
- Slow movement of the stool – too much water absorption in the colon
- Lifestyle changes, such as pregnancy and travel
- Luteal phase of menstruation (after ovulation, before menses due to high progesterone levels)
- Laxative abuse
- Medications including pain meds, antihistamines, antacids, calcium and iron supplements (to name a few)
- Certain conditions including diverticulosis, colon polyps, tumors or celiac disease can narrow the anal canal
- Pelvic floor muscle overactivity or dysfunction
If you are one of the many millions of Americans dealing with constipation, know that there are many things that can be done to help your symptoms. Stayed tuned for Managing Constipation Part 2 for suggestions.