By TheSpear Doctor
Constipation can be precisely described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Health is relative from person to person; normally, a person is expected to have one bowel movement a day. However, due to various reasons including, travels, worries, medication, changes in diets and some diseases may interrupt one’s frequency of bowel movements which normalizes with the body getting accustomed to the new environment or exposure.
Chronic constipation occurs when waste or stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract or cannot be eliminated effectively from the rectum, which may cause the stool to become hard and dry. It is associated with painful passing out of stool and in severe cases, blood can be noticed in the stool.
Some of the common causes of chronic constipation include;
- Anal fissure
- Bowel obstruction
- Colon cancer
- Narrowing of the colon (bowel stricture)
- Other abdominal cancer that presses on the colon
- Rectal cancer
- Rectum bulge through the back wall of the vagina (rectocele)
Problems with the nerves around the colon and rectum
Neurological problems can affect the nerves that cause muscles in the colon and rectum to contract and move stool through the intestines. Causes include:
- Autonomic neuropathy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injury
Difficulty with the muscles involved in elimination
Problems with the pelvic muscles involved in having a bowel movement may cause chronic constipation. These problems may include:
- Inability to relax the pelvic muscles to allow for a bowel movement (anismus)
- Pelvic muscles don’t coordinate relaxation and contraction correctly (dyssynergia)
- Weakened pelvic muscles
Conditions that affect hormones in the body
Hormones help balance fluids in your body. Diseases and conditions that upset the balance of hormones may lead to constipation, including:
- Overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic constipation include:
- Being an older adult
- Being dehydrated
- Eating a diet that’s low in fiber
- Getting little or no physical activity
- Taking certain medications, including sedatives, narcotics, some antidepressants or medications to lower blood pressure
- Having a mental health condition such as depression or an eating disorder
Complications of chronic constipation include:
- Swollen veins in your anus (hemorrhoids). Straining to have a bowel movement may cause swelling in the veins in and around your anus.
- Torn skin in your anus (anal fissure). A large or hard stool can cause tiny tears in the anus.
- Stool that can’t be expelled (fecal impaction). Chronic constipation may cause an accumulation of hardened stool that gets stuck in your intestines.
- Intestine that protrudes from the anus (rectal prolapse). Straining to have a bowel movement can cause a small amount of the rectum to stretch and protrude from the anus.
Since your muscles move stool through the colon to the rectum, where you pass it, when this movement slows down, your colon draws too much water and the stools get dry and hard to pass, causing constipation.
This is often associated with low-fiber or high-fat diet, lack of exercise, and not drinking enough fluids.
- Eating high fiber foods and fruits like, cabbages, avocados, apples, greens, beans and others reduces the risk and helps to reverse the condition.
- Increasing our water intake
- Exercising regularly
- Improving our psycho-social health
Consult your physician whenever your bowel movements reduce significantly in a week with the above symptoms, for advice especially if on treatment.