Constipation is an uncomfortable, common issue that is rarely talked about. You may hesitate to mention it your doctor, or offer a quick prayer that no one reads your search history when you try to figure out why it keeps happening. At Associates in Digestive Health, we don’t shy away from this topic, and we don’t want you to, either. It’s important to understand what may be causing your constipation so that you can make necessary adjustments and spend less time in the bathroom.
Do I Have Constipation?
Constipation is described as an infrequent bowel movement or difficulty passing a stool. If you have less than three bowel movements in one week, you may be constipated. Other symptoms of constipation include hard, lumpy stools, the feeling that there is something blocking a bowel movement, or the inability to fully empty the stool from your rectum. This is not glamorous, but it is important to address. More serious GI issues could occur when you do not confront constipation early enough. Also know that if you have one or more of these symptoms for more than three months, you may have chronic constipation and need to meet with a GI specialist to work through this issue.
What Causes Constipation?
There are several things that may cause you to become constipated. Opioid pain medication tops the list of constipation culprits since the digestive tract has receptors for opioids. Most cancer patients take opioid medication as well as people with severe non-cancer related pain. Other prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines can also cause constipation. Your constipation may be the result of antacids containing aluminum, antidepressants, sedatives, iron supplements, anticholinergics, and diuretics. In some cases, long-term use of laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon, disrupting the colon’s ability to contract which causes constipation. Constipation may also be a symptom of IBS.
Irritable bowel syndrome can equate to slow bowel movements or straining to pass a stool. Temporary constipation can occur when your schedule or diet is disrupted, often as a result of traveling. Pregnancy also causes temporary constipation. This can be linked to hormonal changes as well as increased pressure on the intestine from the growing uterus. Aging reduces both muscle tone and intestinal activity which makes constipation more common in older adults. You may also be tempted to resist the urge to go to the bathroom for a number of reasons. But by holding in a bowel movement, you are encouraging constipation.
Is There an Easy Fix for Constipation?
The most common mistake people make that inadvertently causes constipation is the failure to drink enough fluids or eat enough fiber. Fiber absorbs water and makes the stool larger and softer, which in turn makes it easier to pass. Increasing your fiber intake may be just the ticket to get your bowel moving again. Another easy way to reverse constipation is exercise. Who knew going to the gym or walking around the neighborhood would help you poop? Exercise does so much more for your body than keeping off excess weight and reducing cardiovascular problems—it keeps your GI system functioning properly.
The abdominal wall plays an important role in eliminating waste, so keeping your muscles strong and active will help your colon do its job. Those are two easy fixes to get your bowels moving—exercise and fiber. If you increase your fiber and fluid intake and make time for physical activity, but are still constipated, make an appointment with Associates In Digestive Health today. We will never make you feel embarrassed about your GI problems. Our team of GI specialists will give you the care and treatment necessary so that you can feel better and get back to your regular, healthy bathroom habits.