Are you concerned that you might not be having as many bowel movements as you should? Do you feel bloated, backed up, and constantly uncomfortable in the abdominal area? If you just responded with a “yes” to any of the mentioned things, there is a high possibility that you might be suffering from constipation.
However, there is absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to being constipated; while it may be uncomfortable, it is not at all an uncommon phenomenon – there are more than 2 million Americans who reach out to their physicians for constipation.
Discussing your bowel movement and the passing of your stool can be a very awkward and embarrassing thing to talk about – Nonetheless, considering that your stool plays an immensely important role in reflecting your health, it is very important to keep track of how frequently you have been passing the stool and if you notice any symptoms of constipation or not.
Continue reading this article, this will help you develop an understanding of the what, why, and hows of constipation – that can enable you to help yourself and your loved ones when suffering from constipation.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation can be defined as the lack of bowel movement or restriction of passing stool; technically if you are experiencing 3 or fewer bowel movements within the duration of a week, that is what can be considered as constipation. However, the frequency of how often you go to the bathroom to pass stool greatly varies for all individuals; to the extent that some people might be “going” a couple of times a say, while some might just “go” thrice or maybe four times in a whole week. Regardless, what you need to make sure of is that you are not straying away from your own unique bowel movement patterns and frequencies.
Some key features that generally point toward constipation are:
- Your stool is dry and hard
- Your bowel movement is painful and it is difficult to pass stool
- The constant feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowels completely
What Causes Constipation?
When the movement of your stool becomes really slow through your digestive tract or has trouble being eliminated from the rectum, making your stool dry and hard; that is what usually causes constipation to occurring. Chronic constipation can occur due to a couple of possible causes:
– Blockages in the colon or rectum
- Tiny tears in the skin around the anus
- A blockage in the intestines
- Colon cancer
- Narrowing of the colon
- Other abdominal cancer that presses on the colon
- Rectal cancer
- Rectum bulge through the back wall of the vagina
– Problems with the nerves around the colon and rectum
- Damage to the nerves that control bodily functions
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injury
– Difficulty with the muscles involved in the elimination
- The inability to relax the pelvic muscles to allow for a bowel movement
- Pelvic muscles that don’t coordinate relaxation and contraction correctly
- Weakened pelvic muscles
– Conditions that affect hormones in the body
- Overactive parathyroid gland
- Underactive thyroid
How To Prevent Constipation?
You can use the very same remedy that you have been using to treat your constipation, to even prevent it from happening or developing into a chronic constipation problem:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber
- Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day
- Exercise regularly
- Treat mild constipation with a dietary supplement like magnesium
- Move your bowels when you feel the urge – Do not wait or delay at all
Where Is Constipation Pain Felt?
Chronic constipation and abdominal pain are mostly interlinked and occur back to back, or even simultaneously. It is very common to suffer from chronic constipation which also leads to abdominal pain. In most of cases, the reason behind this abdominal pain happens to be the urge to have a bowel movement, or even at times due to gas buildup in the abdomen. Mild or moderate abdominal pain and constipation together don’t usually cause for concern.
How To Relieve Constipation?
For people suffering from chronic constipation, their physicians are probably going to recommend they to follow the lifestyle changes mentioned below in order to help with relieving their constipation:
- Increase your fiber intake:
Adding fiber to your diet increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines. Slowly begin to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole-grain bread and cereals.
- Exercise most days of the week:
Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines. Try to fit in exercise most days of the week. If you do not already exercise, talk to your doctor about whether you are healthy enough to start an exercise program.
- Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement:
Take your time in the bathroom, allowing yourself enough time to have a bowel movement without distractions and without feeling rushed.
What Foods Help With Constipation?
Here’s a list of a few foods that can help relieve constipation and keep you regular:
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet potato
Can Constipation Cause Back Pain?
Chronic constipation can lead to severe constipation pain in your back area as well as across the abdominal area; this happens as severe constipation ends up swelling the intestines while it retains your fecal matter.
Generally reported as a constant but dull ache that is felt in the lower back of your body; it is where the backup of your stool radiates the pressure upon the surrounding parts of the body.
In cases where chronic constipation gets really severe for the person suffering from it, the buildup of pressure upon the nerves can eventually lead to severe constipation pain and even numbness in your legs. This experience is quite similar to sciatica, but with extra suffering and a disturbed irregular appetite.
When Is Constipation An Emergency?
Severe constipation can be considered and treated as an emergency if you are suffering from major bloating, accompanied by serious abdominal pain; which is usually happening if you haven’t had a bowel movement for a long duration of time.
Since constipation pain is quite common, as much as the occurrence of this condition; experiencing slight symptoms does not require you to visit an emergency room – You should only opt for an emergency room if the symptoms that you are experiencing are quite severe.
Some warning signs that need to be looked out for, are:
- Blood in your stool
- Weight loss that has no apparent reason
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More