Causes of Constipation
Why are you constipated?
In general, constipation is caused by an intestinal slowdown. The question is: how and why does it happen?
How does constipation develop?
Normally, as food passes through the large intestine or colon, water and nutrients from the food are absorbed by the colon because they are needed for various bodily functions. The waste products of digestion, called stool, begin to be formed. The stool is then pushed through your intestines, toward the rectum, through muscle contractions. By the time the stool has to be eliminated, it has become solid, because most of the water has been absorbed already.
However, in some cases, the colon absorbs too much water or the colon's muscle contractions are too slow. These situations cause the stool to pass too slowly through your colon, allowing it to become hard, dry, and difficult to eliminate. This is how constipation can set in.
It is important to bear in mind that not all people have constipation for the same reasons; individual health conditions may influence the likelihood of developing constipation.
Why does constipation develop?
Since constipation is a symptom, and not a disease, it is caused by a wide variety of factors:
Most commonly, constipation develops as a result of a poor diet. For this reason, you should follow a healthy diet that consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating at regular times can prevent the onset of constipation. You should avoid or limit foods that cause constipation. While occasional constipation is not serious, repeated bouts of constipation can lead to more serious medical problems.
There are many conflicting opinions about foods that cause constipation. In general, insufficient fibre in the diet is regarded as a primary cause of constipation. To avoid constipation, stay away from foods high in fat or cholesterol. Too much animal fat in the diet, from dairy products, cheese, meat, or eggs, can lead to constipation. In addition, a diet high in refined sugar or processed, fast foods can cause a slowdown in bowel movements. Prepared foods that come in boxes, such as ready pizza mixes, instant mashed potatoes, or cookies are a few examples of foods that cause constipation. In modern, Western societies, people eat too many foods that are stripped of their dietary fibre, such as polished white rice and white flour, which can slow down the intestinal system. According to some doctors, when certain foods, such as bananas, are eaten in excess, constipation can result. In Chinese medicine, wine is said to aggravate constipation-like symptoms.
Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration, which in turn can cause constipation. Too much caffeine, alcohol, or colas can make matters worse. One of the simplest ways to avoid constipation is to make sure you drink several glasses of water a day. Even though there is some disagreement about how much water is needed, try to have a glass of water at regular intervals throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty. Don't wait to feel thirsty before you have a drink of water: it only indicates you have waited too long.
It has been found that a lack of exercise or physical activity can cause constipation. When you maintain a regular exercise routine, you keep your intestinal muscles in good shape and enable these muscles to digest food more effectively. For this reason, people who are immobile or bed-ridden due to an illness, accident or old age, are particularly vulnerable.
Children may develop constipation when they join school and must follow structured, versus natural, timings or because they avoid using public toilets.
Pregnant women are susceptible to constipation for two reasons: the raised levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy and the compression of the intestine due to the growing fetus. Think about what that baby is sleeping next to!
Similarly, during a woman's menstrual periods, high estrogen and progesterone levels may cause constipation.
Elderly people may face bouts of constipation due to the slowing down of their metabolism or weakening of muscle tone. To some extent, this is a natural part of the aging process so as you get older, you need to pay special attention to ensure that you are having regular bowel movements.
During periods of high stress or tension, people may experience constipation. Worry has adverse physical effects on our body, which can lead to a slowdown of the intestinal system.
Travelers, who disrupt their normal daily routine, may find they have developed constipation due to changes in schedule, food, and drinking water.
Some people ignore or postpone emptying their bowels for a variety of reasons - because they are busy, working, under stress, or outside the home. Children who start school may similarly avoid using public toilets. Such behaviour can set off a cycle of constipation; eventually, it could lead to progressive constipation, where the urge is no longer felt. Whenever we ignore or postpone the need to have a bowel movement, we create potential problems for ourselves. It is always best to respond to this call as soon as possible, to prevent the backup, drying, and hardening of fecal matter.
In today's busy world, people tend to eat their meals too quickly, which can lead to digestive blockages. You need to chew your food slowly and properly to help along the digestive process.
Lack of sleep may also lead to constipation. Remember that the body craves regularity. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help you avoid bowel irregularity.
Constipation is a known side-effect of certain medications. Examples are pain medications with codeine, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antacids with aluminum & calcium, antihistamines, diuretics, anti-Parkinson drugs, and some blood pressure medications. If you have to take such medications, be extra careful to follow a healthy diet and avoid foods that cause constipation. In this way, you can minimize the risk of constipation.
It has been shown that large doses of calcium or iron can cause constipation. When you start taking such supplements, it is best to increase the dosage gradually and be on the lookout for how your body is responding. Then, you can adjust the dosage accordingly.
Ironically, constipation can develop in people who overuse over-the-counter stimulant laxatives. It is believed that such laxatives can harm the nerves and muscles of the colon, causing severe constipation. For this reason, you need to be very careful when deciding whether to take a laxative. Remember that what's normal for someone else may not be normal for you. Each person's body behaves in a different way. Only you can evaluate whether your constipation is severe enough to warrant taking a laxative. Get to know your body's natural digestive schedule. If you start taking laxatives unnecessarily, you will only upset your body's natural process of eliminating waste.
Diseases, Illnesses, and Conditions
Certain illnesses can lead to the improper functioning of various parts of the body. In fact, a slowdown in the movement of stool is a common symptom of various mild to serious metabolic, endocrine, and neurological disorders. For example, cancer, tumors, irritable bowel syndrome, spinal injuries, hemorrhoids, fissures, intestinal obstructions, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, stroke, Parkinson's, lupus, appendicitis and colon, rectum, and intestinal function problems are all known to cause constipation. Losing essential body salts through vomiting or diarrhea can also lead to constipation.