Constipation is a common problem that affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It is estimated that nearly 20% of the population experiences constipation at some point in their lives, and it is more common in women than men. While constipation is not typically a serious health condition, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and disruptive to daily life.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a condition where an individual has difficulty passing stool, or has infrequent bowel movements. While there is no set number of bowel movements that a person should have each day, most people have bowel movements anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. If a person has fewer than three bowel movements per week, they are considered to be constipated.
Causes of Constipation:
There are many possible causes of constipation. Some of the most common causes include:
- Inadequate Fiber Intake- Fiber is essential for digestive health, as it helps to keep the bowels moving. Without enough fiber in the diet, stool can become hard and difficult to pass.
- Lack of Physical Activity- Regular exercise helps to keep the digestive system working properly. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to constipation.
- Medications- Many medications can cause constipation as a side effect. Some of the most common culprits include pain medications, antacids, and antidepressants.
- Changes in Routine- Traveling, changes in diet, and changes in routine can all disrupt the digestive system and lead to constipation.
- Medical Conditions-Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, and diabetes, can increase the risk of constipation.
- Dehydration- When the body is dehydrated, the stool can become hard and difficult to pass.
Symptoms of Constipation: The symptoms of constipation can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual.
- Difficulty Passing Stool-One of the most common symptoms of constipation is difficulty passing stool. Stool may be hard, dry, and difficult to pass, and may require straining and effort to push out. This can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
- Infrequent Bowel Movements-Another common symptom of constipation is infrequent bowel movements. For some people, this may mean having fewer than three bowel movements per week. This can lead to a build-up of stool in the colon, which can make passing stool more difficult.
- Abdominal Pain and Bloating-Abdominal pain and bloating are also common symptoms of constipation. This can be caused by the build-up of stool in the colon, which can cause discomfort and pressure in the abdomen.
- Nausea and Vomiting-In some cases, constipation can cause nausea and vomiting. This can be caused by the build-up of stool and gas in the digestive system, which can lead to feelings of nausea and discomfort.
- Loss of Appetite-Constipation can also lead to a loss of appetite. This may be caused by the discomfort and pressure in the abdomen, which can make it difficult to eat and digest food.
- Feeling of Incomplete Evacuation-Some people may experience a feeling of incomplete evacuation after having a bowel movement. This can be caused by the stool being hard and difficult to pass, or by the colon not emptying completely.
Complications of Constipation: Constipation is a common condition that can lead to a range of complications if left untreated.
- Haemorrhoids-One of the most common complications of constipation is haemorrhoids. Haemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum and anus that can be painful, itchy, and uncomfortable. Constipation can cause haemorrhoids by putting pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus.
- Anal Fissures-Constipation can also cause anal fissures. Anal fissures are small tears in the skin around the anus that can be painful and cause bleeding. Straining during bowel movements can cause anal fissures.
- Rectal Prolapse-In severe cases, constipation can lead to rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapse is when the rectum protrudes from the anus. This can be painful and can cause difficulty passing stool.
- Faecal Impaction-Faecal impaction is a complication of constipation where a large, hard mass of stool becomes stuck in the rectum. This can cause severe pain and discomfort and can lead to bowel obstruction if left untreated.
- Bowel Obstruction-In rare cases, constipation can lead to bowel obstruction. Bowel obstruction is when the bowel is blocked, preventing stool from passing through. This can be a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
- Diverticulitis-Constipation can also increase the risk of diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is a condition where small pouches in the colon become inflamed or infected. Constipation can increase the pressure in the colon, which can lead to the formation of these pouches and increase the risk of diverticulitis.
- Rectal Bleeding-Constipation can also cause rectal bleeding. This can be caused by straining during bowel movements, which can cause small tears in the anus and rectum. Rectal bleeding can be a sign of a more serious condition and should be evaluated.
- Urinary Incontinence-In some cases, constipation can lead to urinary incontinence. This is because the rectum and bladder share the same nerves. Constipation can put pressure on these nerves, which can lead to a loss of control over the bladder.
Prevention of Constipation:
- Eat a High-Fiber Diet-One of the best ways to prevent constipation is to eat a diet that is high in fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body. Instead, it passes through the digestive system largely intact, adding bulk to the stool and making it easier to pass. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It is recommended that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber per day. However, many people fall short of this recommendation. To increase your fiber intake, try to include a serving of fruit or vegetables with each meal, choose whole-grain bread and pasta instead of white, and add legumes to soups, stews, and salads.
- Drink Plenty of Water-Drinking plenty of water is important for overall health, and it can also help to prevent constipation. Water helps to keep the stool soft and easy to pass. It is recommended that adults drink at least eight glasses of water per day, but some people may need more, depending on their activity level and other factors.
- Exercise Regularly-Regular exercise is important for overall health, and it can also help to prevent constipation. Exercise helps to stimulate the muscles in the digestive system, which can help to keep things moving. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Establish Regular Toilet Habits-Establishing regular toilet habits can also help to prevent constipation. Try to go to the bathroom at the same time each day, and take your time when you are there. Don’t rush, and make sure that you fully empty your bowels each time.
- Avoid Delaying the Urge to Go-Delaying the urge to go to the bathroom can lead to constipation. When you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, try to go to the bathroom as soon as possible. Holding in stool for too long can make it harder and more difficult to pass.
- Limit Processed Foods-Processed foods, such as fast food, snack foods, and packaged foods, tend to be low in fiber and high in fat and sugar. Eating too many processed foods can contribute to constipation. Try to limit your intake of processed foods, and focus on whole, unprocessed foods instead.
- Manage Stress-Stress can have a negative impact on the digestive system, leading to constipation. Finding ways to manage stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, can help to prevent constipation.
Role of Neurotherapy: Neurotherapy offers immense potential to restore the balance of acid and alkaline in the body, and regulate the motility of the intestine. It is believed that imbalances in the acid-alkaline levels of the body can lead to various health issues, including digestive problems such as constipation and acid reflux. Through neurotherapy, the body’s innate healing mechanisms can be activated, allowing for the regulation of intestinal motility and the restoration of healthy acid-alkaline balance. This, in turn, can promote better nutrient absorption, improve digestive function, and alleviate symptoms associated with constipation.