Posts for tag: Constipation
Everyone’s different when it comes to how often they have a bowel movement. Some people go three times a day while others only go three times a week, and both are normal; however, if you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you are considered constipated. If stools are dry or hard to pass, these are also signs of constipation.
While laxatives are often the first thing people try when it comes to treating their constipation you may want to hold off on those for the time being and try these simple hacks:
- Make sure that you are staying hydrated (drinking enough water is key!)
- Get regular exercise
- Increase your fiber intake
If you’ve tried the lifestyle and dietary changes above and your bowels still aren’t moving, then you may be considering a laxative at this point. There are different types; however, it’s important to know which ones to use. Fiber supplements are often the easiest on the body (this includes products like Metamucil). Before purchasing laxatives, it’s a good idea to talk with your GI doctor about which one is right for you. Since people can become dependent on laxatives, you must speak with your gastroenterologist if you find yourself regularly dealing with constipation that can only be alleviated by using laxatives.
While there are many over-the-counter laxatives on the market that can help with occasional constipation, it’s also important to know when to see your gastroenterologist instead. You should consult with your doctor if,
- You haven’t had a bowel movement in more than three days
- You are using laxatives for a week but are still dealing with constipation
- Your constipation is accompanied by bloody stools, abdominal pain, or dizziness
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding
- You are unexpectedly and suddenly losing weight
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Chronic constipation occurs when symptoms continue for more than a few weeks. Some of the causes of chronic constipation include,
- Poor diet or a low-fiber diet
- Sedentary lifestyle (aka lack of physical activity)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Bowel obstructions
- High levels of calcium in the bloodstream (hypercalcemia)
- Certain medications (e.g., diuretics; opioids; tricyclic antidepressants)
The first step you should take is to change your diet and lifestyle to see if that helps your bowel movements. If constipation does not improve then it’s time to see your doctor. Make sure to write down any other symptoms you may be experiencing along with constipation such as abdominal pain, fatigue, unexpected weight loss, or hair loss. We will go through the medications you’re taking and decide whether we should run blood tests to rule out certain health problems such as diabetes or thyroid function.
In some cases, a gastroenterologist may recommend a colonoscopy, which allows your doctor to be able to better examine the colon and large intestines to look for obstructions, bleeds, ulcers, inflammation, irritable bowel disease, or other possible causes of constipation.
Most patients can improve their constipation issues through simple dietary and lifestyle changes, or through over-the-counter products; however, if you still don’t get relief, our gastroenterologist may recommend a prescription-strength medication that can help with chronic constipation.
If chronic constipation is caused by an underlying health problem such as diabetes or hypothyroidism you must get the proper medication and treatment you need from your doctor. By getting these health problems under control we can also alleviate your gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Certain medications
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive amounts of dairy products, including cheese and milk
- Not going to the toilet frequently enough
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Abusing laxatives
- Changing your diet to include fiber
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to soften stool
- Staying as active as possible
- Switching routine medications (with your doctor's approval)
- Limited use of laxatives (enemas, glycerin suppositories, stimulant laxatives)
- Daily fiber supplements (psyllium or bran cereals) or stool softeners
Being constipated means your bowel movements happen less often than normal. Everyone goes through it at some point. Fortunately, there are many treatments that can provide relief. Treatment for constipation usually begins with diet and lifestyle changes meant to increase the speed at which stool moves through your digestive tract. If those changes don't help, your gastroenterologist may recommend other treatment options.
1. Poor diet- A common cause of constipation is a diet high in refined sugar (desserts and other sweets), and animal fats (dairy products, eggs, meats, but low in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), especially insoluble fiber, which helps move stool through the colon and promote bowel movements. Studies show that high dietary fiber intake results in larger stools and more frequent bowel movements.
2. IBS- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common causes of constipation. IBS is an intestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, or both. IBS treatments include diet and lifestyle changes and medications.
3. Bowel habits- You can start a cycle of constipation by suppressing the urge to defecate. After a period of time, you may stop feeling the urge. This can lead to progressive constipation. Research shows that ignoring the urge to defecate may slow down the transit through the digestive tract.
4. Pregnancy- Pregnancy is also a common cause of constipation. Constipation affects 50 percent of women at some point during their pregnancy. Constipation in pregnant women is thought to occur due to an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the digestive tract more slowly.
5. Medications- Many medications can cause constipation. These include antacids that contain calcium or aluminum, pain medications, tranquilizers, antispasmodic drugs, antidepressant drugs, anticonvulsants, and calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and heart conditions.
6. Laxative Abuse- Laxatives are substances that loosen stools and increase bowel movements. They are used to treat constipation. The long-term use of laxative drugs can cause constipation. People who take frequent doses of laxative drugs become dependent upon them and may require higher doses until, finally, the intestinal muscles become weak and fail to work properly.
The severity of constipation varies from person to person. Most individuals only experience constipation for a few days. For some people, constipation goes on for longer and makes life miserable. If you're suffering from constipation, you should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.