What is constipation?
Constipation refers to infrequent or hard stools, or difficulty passing stools. More specifically, constipation may involve pain during the passage of a bowel movement, the inability to pass a bowel movement after straining or pushing for more than 10 minutes, or no bowel movements after more than 3 days. Constipation is the passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times a week. People who are constipated may find having a bowel movement
difficult and painful. Other symptoms of constipation include feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish. Constipation may be acute or chronic. Acute constipation begins suddenly and conspicuously. Chronic constipation may begin insidiously and persist for months or years.
The number of bowel movements generally decreases with age. Ninety-five percent of adults have bowel movements between three and 21 times per week, and this would be considered normal. The most common pattern is one bowel movement a day, but this pattern is seen in less than 50% of people. Moreover, most people are irregular and do not have bowel movements every day or the same number of bowel movements each day. A person with constipation often or always produces hard stools that may be difficult to pass. The person also may feel as though the rectum has not been completely emptied. Bowel movements are likely to be infrequent as well. Many people believe they are constipated if they do not have a bowel movement (defecate) every day. However, daily bowel movements are not normal for everyone, and having less frequent bowel movements does not necessarily indicate a problem unless there has been a substantial change from previous patterns. The same is true of the color and consistency of stool; unless there is a substantial change, the person probably does not have constipation.
For most people, it is normal for bowel movements to occur from three times a day to three times a week; other people may go a week or more without experiencing discomfort or harmful effects. Normal bowel habits are affected by diet. The average American diet includes 12 to 15 grams of fiber per day, although 25 to 30 grams of fiber and about 60 to 80 ounces of fluid daily are recommended for proper bowel function. Exercise is also beneficial to proper function of the colon.
Eating foods high in fiber, including bran, shredded wheat, whole grain breads and certain fruits and vegetables will help provide the 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day recommended for proper bowel function. About 80 percent of people suffer from constipation at some time during their lives, and brief periods of constipation are normal. Constipation may be diagnosed if bowel movements occur fewer than three times weekly on an ongoing basis. Widespread beliefs, such as the assumption that everyone should have a movement at least once each day, have led to overuse and abuse of laxatives.
More information on constipation
What is constipation? - Constipation is a condition in which too much water is absorbed from the large intestine back into the bloodstream, leaving the faeces dry, hard and difficult to expel.
What causes constipation? - Constipation is caused by a lack of fibre in the diet. In some people, constipation may result from repeatedly ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement.
What are the symptoms of constipation? - Symptoms associated with constipation include infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, straining when passing a motion, cramps, abdominal bloating, flatulence.
What're risk factors for constipation? - Risk factors for constipation include not enough liquids, lack of exercise, medications, irritable bowel syndrome, abuse of laxatives, and specific diseases.
What are the complications of constipation? - Most cases of constipation are due to inadequate dietary fiber intake, inadequate water intake, and reduced physical activity and are not serious.
How is constipation diagnosed? - The patient's observations and medical history help diagnose constipation. Other diagnostic procedures include a barium enema, which reveals blockage inside the intestine.
What's the treatment for constipation? - The first treatment for constipation is to eat a high fiber diet to provide natural bulk in daily food intake. Laxatives may be used to relieve constipation.
What're the alternative remedies for constipation? - Herbal therapies can be useful in the treatment of constipation. Homeopathy also can offer assistance with constipation.
How to prevent constipation? - Dietary modifications can correct constipation. Daily use of 500 mg vitamin C and 400 mg magnesium can prevent constipation.
What is infant constipation? - Constipation is a very common and frustrating problem in children. Constipation is most commonly caused by a diet that is low in fiber.
What causes baby constipation? - Constipation in children usually is due to poor bowel habits. Bottlefed babies suffer from constipation because formula milk is harder for a baby to digest.
What're the treatments for child constipation? - Constipation is best treated by making changes in your child's diet. The goal of treatment is for your child to have one to two soft stools each day.
Constipation during pregnancy - Pregnant women may experience constipation, which can be very uncomfortable. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy.