When bowel movements happen three or fewer times in a week, it is defined as constipation. Constipation is not a disease, however, can be a symptom of an underlying disease. Constipation may pertain to either have less frequent or increasingly difficult bowel movements. Stool is often described as hard and dry. There is no standard length of time that should occur in between bowel movements. This can vary from one person to another. While some individuals can do a number two twice a day, some only go every other day. On the other hand, if a person does not have a single bowel movement in 72 hours, it is regarded as too long. By three days, stool would have already become hard, thus difficult to pass.
Causes of Constipation
Constipation often results from a bowel function disorder. When the muscles of the colon (large intestine) contract too slowly or poorly or absorb too much water, the feces begin to move slowly or lose water, respectively. The following are the common causes of constipation:
- Poor diet – insufficient amount of fiber in the diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Emotional stress
- Dairy products
- Taking certain drugs: diuretics, narcotics or antidepressant
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Diseases such as, cancer and endocrine or metabolic conditions
- Problems in the colon or rectum
- Change in everyday routine
Symptoms of Constipation
It may be difficult to determine whether one has constipation. Apart from the length between bowel movements, the following may also be symptoms of constipation:
- Hard and dry feces
- Increased difficulty or straining excessively while passing feces
- Painful upon straining
- Stomach ache that may be relieved upon passing stool
- Presence of blood
- In some cases, there may be leakage of wet, diarrhea-like stool in between bowel movements
First Aid Management for Constipation
Constipation can be given first aid by:
- If stomach aches are present, take pain killers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water or natural fruit juices.
- Do not take laxatives unless it is prescribed by the doctor.
Prevention of Constipation
Prevention is better than cure. The list below can serve as tips to help prevent constipation in the future:
- Eat a diet that is healthy and well-balanced, that is specifically rich in fiber. Fiber promotes bowel movements. Increase vegetable, fruit, and whole wheat in the diet, as well.
- Avoid fluids that contain caffeine and alcohol as these may lead to dehydration. In addition, avoid dairy products as these may irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
- Avoid drugs that may lead to constipation, unless it is given by the doctor.
- Exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes a week. If possible, set up a regular exercise schedule.
- Do not rush bowel movements to ensure complete excretion of feces. Nor should the urge to go to the toilet be ignored.
Constipation is caused by a disorder of the bowel function leading to an individual having bowel movements that are less frequent or increasingly difficult.