Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement
Some people who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel.
Some people think they are constipated if they do not have a bowel movement every day. However, normal stool elimination may be three times a day or three times a week, depending on the person.
Constipation is a symptom, not a disease. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, and a poor diet typically is the cause. Most constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief.
Constipation is most often caused by a low-fiber diet, lack of physical activity, not drinking enough water, or delay in going to the bathroom when you have the urge to defecate. Stress and travel can also contribute to constipation or other changes in bowel habits.
Other times, diseases of the bowel (such as irritable bowel syndrome), pregnancy, certain medical conditions (like an underactive thyroid or cystic fibrosis), mental health problems, neurological diseases, or medications may be the reason for your constipation. More serious causes, like colon cancer, are much less common.
Constipation in children often occurs if they hold back bowel movements when they aren't ready for toilet training or are afraid of it.
Constipation is an abnormal condition in which bowel movements occur less frequently than what is usual for you. Every person has differences in their normal, regular pattern of bowel movements, but constipation can be loosely defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
When you are constipated, you have bowel movements that are hard, dry and difficult or painful to pass. You may also only pass small amounts of stool in small pieces at one time. Constipation is caused by food moving too slowly through the colon, or it can occur when the colon absorbs too much water from digested food as it forms waste products (stool).
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints. Constipation is very common in young children and the elderly but can occur in any age group or population.
A wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to constipation, including lifestyle changes, dehydration, malignancy (cancer), inflammation, and other abnormal processes.
Constipation can be due to mild to moderate conditions, such as a poor diet, pregnancy or hemorrhoids. Serious and life-threatening causes of constipation include colon cancer and bowel obstruction.
A day without a bowel movement is no cause for concern. Bowel movements should be easy and soft. When you feel the urge, it is important to respond promptly. Don't postpone it if you can.
Constipation treatments include dietary and lifestyle changes, fiber supplements, and laxatives.
Sometimes prescription medicines and therapies such as biofeedback may be tried. Rarely, surgery may be necessary for carefully defined neuromuscular abnormalities.
The first step is to determine the underlying cause of constipation.
If fiber is lacking in the diet, it may help to try raw wheat bran as a supplement. If bran causes bloating or excessive gas, try a fiber substitute such as psyllium. Be sure to drink plenty of water with psyllium.
If gas is still a problem, methylcellulose (Citrucel) or polycarbophil (e.g., Fibercon, Equalactin) may create less gas. Drink a generous glass of water to wash fiber down.
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