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What Is Constipation

Generally constipation is defined as the passage of hard, dry bowel movements. Passage may be difficult and painful. Other symptoms of constipation include feeling bloated, uncomfortable fullness, and sluggish.

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse or NDDIC states the clinical definition of constipation as any two of the following symptoms for at least 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive) in the previous 12 months:

Straining during bowel movements
Lumpy or hard stool
Sensation of incomplete evacuation
Sensation of Anorectal blockage or obstruction
Fewer than three bowel movements per week

At sometime or another, most everyone gets constipated for one reason or another. Reasons can range from sudden changes in diet, emotional stress, lack of exercise, general illness or injury or any number of things that can throw an otherwise normal digestive system into turmoil. In most of these case the symptoms of constipation are short lived and easily managed, and cause no serious harm.

Chronic Constipation or long term constipation is a more serious condition and may need to be addressed by a medical professional. Long term constipation is when symptoms last for long periods of time, constipation would be considered chronic when long term constipation continues to occur repeatedly or continually. Chronic Constipation may be a result of irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal disorder.

Constipation is one of the more common gastrointestinal complaints; as a result about 2 million doctor visits for symptoms of constipation are reported annually. Research would suggest that most people treat themselves without seeking medical help. Americans alone spend millions of dollars each year on laxative products. Conservative estimates contend that as many as 3 million Americans suffer from frequent or chronic constipation


What Causes Constipation?

In learning what causes constipation it is wise to understand how the large intestine or colon works. As food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming waste products, or stool. Muscle contractions in the colon push the stool toward the rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed.

The hard and dry stools of constipation occur when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon's muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon too slowly. Common causes of constipation are:

• not enough fiber in the diet
• not enough fluid or water intake
• lack of exercise
• medications
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• problems with intestinal function
• problems with the colon and rectum
• changes in life or routine
• ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
• abuse of laxatives
• medications
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Low Fiber Diet

Lack of Fiber in the average diet is generally conceded as the most common cause of constipation. People who consume a diet low in fiber and high in fats and animal protein found in meats, dairy, and eggs are much more likely to suffer from constipation than people who eat plenty of high-fiber foods. Keep in mind that if you are considering increasing your daily intake of fiber, that it needs to be eaten carefully if you have constipation from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Soluble and insoluble fiber are the parts of fruits, vegetables, and grains that the body cannot digest, and pass through the digestive system Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines almost unchanged. The added bulk and increased water retention by soluble fiber create a combined soft texture of fiber to help prevent hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. Both forms of fiber are critical in a diet for those that suffer with IBS. Both medical professionals and those of naturalist or homeopathic ideals recommend fiber for relieving and prevention of IBS constipation.


Low Fluid Intake

Fluids like water and juice are essential for getting fluid into the colon and adding bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. People who have problems with constipation should monitor their daily intake of essential fluids and make sure they are getting a minimum of 8 servings of 8 fluid ounces of helpful essential fluids such as water and healthy fruit juices every day. Drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soda drinks as well as alcohol have a dehydrating effect. These fluids are also known to be gastrointestinal irritants, and can excite the symptoms of constipation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


Lack of Quality Exercise.

A lack of quality exercise, the kind that increased heart rate, thus speeding up metabolism can lead to constipation. For example, constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness where the patient is confined to a best or to little or no physical activity It is thought that the advent and advance of the information age is a leading contributor to the increase in the number of cases of chronic constipation. Because of the ease of access of information, people are bound to things such as computer keyboards rather then having to walk across a building or even a room to access a book, diminishing even further physical activity.


Abrupt or drastic changes to Life Style.

People may experience constipation due to the influence of changes in their lifestyle. Moving to a new location, especially one in a different climate zone can bring on bouts of constipation. Women during pregnancy may become constipated because of hormonal changes. Aging can cause a slow down in metabolism which can affect bowel regulation causing constipation. Long term stress can also affect bowel regulatory function. Dramatic changes in eating habits and over all diet too can cause constipation.


Ignoring the Urge

There are many reasons that people may sometimes ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. It may be a fear of public toilets, or none available, it may be an inappropriate time, or they feel too busy to be interrupted. What ever the reason may be, if the urge is repeatedly ignored or physically repressed, the body may stop producing the urge to expel the bowel. This can lead to problematic constipation symptoms. Children may ignore the body’s signals because of a particularly stressful potty training episode, or because they too don’t wish play time to be interrupted, and can suffer from constipation.


IBS Constipation

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other diseases and disorders are known to cause constipation. Some people with IBS have uncontrollable muscle spasms in the colon that affect bowel movements. Constipation can be the dominate bowel symptom, or constipation and and diarrhea can alternate. Abdominal cramping, gassiness, and bloating are other common complaints. Dietary changes are highly effective for managing constipation from IBS.

Some of the other diseases, conditions and disorders known to cause constipation are; diabetes, under active or overactive thyroid gland, Uremia, Lupus, Scleroderma, Hypocalcaemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and some Systemic disorders.


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