A Complete Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment

Are you having trouble with your bowel movements? Do you have to strain when going to the bathroom? Is your stool hard, dry and difficult to pass? You may have constipation.

So, what should you do? First of all, stay calm. Although constipation can make you uncomfortable, it is usually a routine digestive problem, not a serious disease. Most people experience short bouts of constipation at different points in their lives. Usually, such constipation is temporary and treatable. Various factors, in particular diet and exercise, can affect your bowel habits. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments of constipation, you will be able to get back to normal more quickly. You will also know if your situation requires more serious medical attention and how to prevent future episodes of constipation.

What is Constipation?

Medically speaking, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. This is the guideline followed by Western medicine. In Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu science of medicine, a person may be considered to be constipated when he or she does not have a bowel movement for 24 hours. Whatever the definition, whenever waste material moves too slowly through the large intestine, the stool become hard and dry, making it difficult and painful to empty your bowels. Constipation is also associated with bloating, straining, abdominal pain, a repetitive urge to have a bowel movement and / or a feeling of incomplete stool elimination. In its extreme form, constipation can lead to fecal impaction, in which the stool hardens in the rectum to such an extent that it prevents the individual from being able to defecate at all.

In layman terms, you may begin to feel constipated if you simply pass stool less frequently than usual, feel uncomfortable and experience pain or difficulty when having a bowel movement. What's more, what's "normal" varies widely from individual to individual. You may not eliminate stool daily. Healthy people may have bowel movements anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. The key is this: whenever you experience a slowdown in your normal routine, you may be getting constipated.

What are the causes of constipation?

The intestinal slowdown characteristic of constipation arises from a wide variety of causes. The primary reasons are poor dietary habits and insufficient intake of liquids. Other aggravating factors include irregular bowel habits, life changes, travel, pregnancy, and stress. In addition, constipation can be a side effect of taking certain medications, the result of laxative abuse, or a symptom of several more serious illnesses or diseases.

How is constipation treated?

Like most constipated people, you may be able to manage your constipation with simple, self-help measures. Some cures for constipation are natural and others, chemical. Most natural cures for constipation include making dietary changes, drinking more fluids and getting more exercise. A wide variety of fibre-rich foods may provide the roughage necessary to get your intestinal system back on track. Hydrating the body with water and juices may also aid in softening the stool. Moving about can help strengthen your abdominal muscles. It is advisable to try these natural methods before turning to chemical cures for constipation, such as over-the counter laxatives, pills, suppositories, or enemas.

Can constipation be serious?

In some cases, constipation can be chronic and may be a symptom of a more serious disorder, such as cancer. In other cases, the straining, fissures and bleeding caused by eliminating the hard stool can lead to complications, which need to be dealt with. By itself, constipation is rarely life-threatening, though it may draw attention to a broader disorder.