Constipation develops once the bowel movements become hard or less frequent than normal. The time between bowel movements varies from one individual to another. Some experience bowel movements several times throughout the day while others have only 1-2 times in a week. If the individual does not have a bowel movement more than 3 days, it is considered too long. After 3 days, the stool hardens and becomes difficult to pass.
What are the causes?
Constipation is typically triggered by poor intake of fiber in the diet or a disruption in the regular diet or routine. A chronic case might be brought about by a poor diet, certain medications, dehydration, stress or pressure from other activities that forces one to disregard the need to empty the bowel.
Some of the common causes of constipation include:
- Diet low in fiber
- Lack of exercise
- Not drinking enough water
- Stress or resisting the urge to have a bowel movement
- Travel or other changes in the routine
- Consuming large amounts of cheese or milk
- Medications such as pain medications, iron pills, antidepressants, antacids, blood pressure medications, allergy medications, herbal supplements, psychiatric drugs
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Slow transit of the colon
- Neurological conditions including multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury
Management of constipation
- Drink 2-4 extra glasses of water daily
- Try warm liquids especially in the morning
- Provide the individual with prunes and/or bran cereal
- Add vegetables and fruits to the diet
- Add supplemental fiber to the diet
- Use a mild laxative or stool softener if needed. Avoid using more than 2 weeks without consulting a doctor since overusing laxatives can worsen the symptoms.
It is vital to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Ideal sources of fiber include vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grain cereals and breads. Make sure that there is adequate intake of water throughout the day as well.