Constipation is one of those uncomfortable things like heartburn or indigestion that all of us will experience at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, some people suffer from constipation so often they need treatment. So, what is constipation? Constipation is defined as a condition in which one finds difficulty in emptying the bowel and is associated with hardened stools.
What causes constipation?
There are a number of things that can cause constipation, the most common causes include: not eating enough fibre such as fruit and veg or not drinking enough water. Other causes include not moving enough or sitting/ lying down for long periods of time. Changing your usual diet or daily routine can lead to constipation but it can also be a side effect of certain medications or mental health problems such as anxiety or depression.
How can you prevent constipation?
There are a number of precautions you can put in place to limit the chances of constipation occurring. The main recommendation to prevent and treat constipation at home is by making small changes to your diet such as avoiding alcohol, drinking plenty of fluids and increasing the fibre in your diet.
Regularly exercising is another simple yet effective way to prevent and treat constipation, even a daily walk or jog can help you poo more regularly. Exercise helps by lowering the time it takes food to move through the intestine which limits the amount of water your body absorbs from the stool. What’s more, cardio exercise such as swimming, running, dancing or cycling will increase your heart rate and breathing. This helps to stimulate your bowels.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Constipation can be a particularly uncomfortable problem and in some cases can be very painful. There are a number of symptoms and signs that patients tend to experience when suffering from constipation, such as:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Bloating and tight feeling in gut
- Feeling gassy but relieving gas does not relieve the discomfort
- Nausea / vomiting
- Hard and small stools
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Straining during bowel movement
- Rectal bleeding
- Haemorrhoids caused by hard stools
- Inability to pass stools
When is it time to see a Doctor?
If you have tried these simple remedies and you can’t seem to get your bowels moving, the next step is to speak to a pharmacist who may be able to suggest some suitable laxative products. These are medicines that should help you poo more regularly, they tend to work within a few days and should only be used for a short period of time.
If you are not improving with treatment it may be time to see a Doctor. Here are some signs and warnings to look out for that mean it might be time to book a Doctors appointment:
- You are regularly constipated for a long period of time
- You are bloated and it lasts a long time
- There is blood in your stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- You feel tired and fatigued a lot
- You are taking a medicine known to cause constipation
What are the complications of long-term constipation?
Suffering from long-term constipation can lead to faecal impaction. This is where the poo has built up in the last part of the large intestine. This can be treated by a specialist Doctor such as Mr Andrew Clarke who can treat you in the following ways:
- Stronger (prescribed) laxatives
- A suppository
- A mini enama
- Removal of the stool by a healthcare professional
The main symptom is diarrhoea after a long bout of constipation.