Constipation is one of the most common digestive issues in the United States. The condition is characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools. It is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.
The primary purpose of the colon is to absorb water from food in the stomach as it passes through the digestive system and creates stool.
Colon muscles push waste through the rectum; however, when it becomes too hard to pass, it can cause constipation. Poor diet also causes constipation, which is why it’s necessary to consume healthy amounts of water and dietary fiber to keep your stool soft and able to pass through easily.
The following tips can help you prevent chronic constipation
- Eat plenty of fiber – vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grain cereals and bran
- Eat less processed foods, dairy and meat products
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stay as active as possible, walk and try to get regular exercise
- Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements
- Don’t ignore the urge to pass stool
- Try to manage stress
Some of the common signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- Fewer than three bowel movements a week
- Passing hard, dry stool
- Straining or in pain during bowel movements
- Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum
Constipation is considered chronic if symptoms persist for three months or longer.
Constipation Diagnosis and Treatment
A general physical exam and a digital rectal exam is often conducted to diagnose chronic constipation. Doctors may also order blood tests, x-ray, colonoscopy and other tests.
Treatment for constipation usually starts with change of diet and overall lifestyle changes to allow stool to pass through intestines with ease. For medications, you can likely take OTC medications for constipation, based on what your doctor advises. Some instances require prescription medications, especially for chronic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.