What are the signs and symptoms of constipation?
An individual may experience different symptoms; however, the most common signs and symptoms of constipation are as follows:
- Less than three bowel movements in a week
- Dry, hard, or lumpy stools
- Straining while passing stools
- Difficult to pass stools
- Stomachache or cramps
- Incomplete emptying of bowels
- Decreased appetite
Constipation is a symptom in itself and may sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition.
What is constipation?
Constipation is difficulty in passing of stools, which is usually associated with hardened stools. It commonly occurs due to a poor diet and lack of exercise. It involves the inability to pass the stool for more than three days that leads to dry and hard stools. Generally, everyone experiences bouts of constipation, which resolves on its own with dietary changes and time. Constipation is usually not serious and only causes a little discomfort.
What causes constipation?
Constipation can be caused due to various reasons. There can be more than one cause of constipation at a time. Causes of constipation include the following:
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Dairy products
- Drinking less water
- Physical inactivity
- Overuse of laxatives
- Resisting the urge to defecate
- Dietary changes
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Delayed emptying of the colon
- Certain medications (narcotics, antidepressants, and iron pills)
- Inflammation linked to diverticular disease
- Intestinal obstructions
- Metabolic disease such as diabetes
- Hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism
- Parkinson’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Spinal cord or brain injuries
- Older age
- Colon cancer
- Problems with the nerves and muscles in the digestive system
When to call a doctor?
Contact your physician immediately if the following symptoms are observed:
What should I do if I am constipated?
If you are constipated, try out the following remedies:
- Drink two to four extra glasses of water in addition to the usual 3 L of water each day
- Try warm water, especially in the morning
- Add more of fruits and vegetables in the diet
- Include more of green leafy vegetables in the diet
- Avoid dairy products such as yogurt and milk because it can worsen the symptoms in some cases
- Exercise regularly to activate the muscles in the intestines
- Do not resist the urge to defecate
- Eat prunes and bran cereal
- Consuming seeds such as flax seeds
- Try taking laxatives
How can I prevent constipation?
You can prevent constipation by including the following lifestyle changes:
- Eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds
- Include fiber-rich foods in the diet
- Drink eight-ounce glasses of water and other fluids a day
- Avoid caffeine and soft drinks that may cause dehydration
- Cut back on dairy products
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day, or in any case, keep yourself active for at least 30 minutes a day
- Do not resist the urge to defecate
- Avoid junk foods and foods high in trans fats
- Try to train yourself to have a bowel movement at the same time
- Stop taking medications or supplements that cause constipation
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