Constipation: Causes, Remedies, and Relief


What is constipation?


Constipation is a common problem experienced by many people. It is a chronic condition in which bowel movements occur less often than usual, or consist of hard and dry stools that are painful or difficult to pass, or the person experiences a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement.
Normal bowel movements vary from person to person. For some people, passing stool twice a day is completely normal, while for others, three times a week is the norm. Any change from the normal habit is the best way to understand if you are constipated or not.


How does constipation occur?


If you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week it means you have constipation. It is a common gastrointestinal issue,  in which bowel movements are infrequent or difficult to pass.

Our gastrointestinal tract, which consists of the hollow organs such as the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine including the rectum and anus, is responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal.
The lower gastrointestinal tract, consisting of the large intestine, or the bowel which includes your colon and rectum, absorbs water from the digested food and changes it from a liquid consistency to a solid form, in other words into stool.
Constipation occurs when the digested food spends too much time in your colon. The colon then absorbs too much water and makes your stool hard and dry. If the stool is hard and dry it becomes difficult for your rectal muscles to push out the stool from your body.

Constipation is considered a symptom of various health issues, rather than a disease by itself. You're considered constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week.

If you suffer from constipation, you may end up straining to pass stool which is hard and dry or feel that you are not able to completely empty out your bowels.


Who is prone to constipation?


Almost everyone suffers from constipation at some point. However, some people are slightly more at risk than others, for example:  

  • women
  • people who are 65 years or older
  • people of a low-income group
  • people who have just undergone a surgery
  • women who are pregnant
  • a woman who has just given birth
  • people who lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • people who are stressed
  • people who suffer from eating disorders
  • people who do not include an adequate amount of fiber in their diet
  • people who consume large amounts of dairy products
  • people who are frequent travellers
  • people who from medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, piles, multiple sclerosis, clinical depression, colon cancer

What are the causes of constipation?


Various factors can lead to constipation, such as:

  • unhealthy and irregular eating habits, or eating very small portions
  • not visiting the toilet when the pressure arises
  • leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • insufficient exercise
  • ill-health
  • dehydration or not drinking enough water
  • lack of fibre-rich foods in the diet
  • stress

What are the symptoms of constipation? How is constipation diagnosed?


A  number of symptoms can suggest you may be constipated. These include, but are not limited to:

  • hard and difficult stools less than three times a week, requiring you to strain
  • requiring laxatives more than three times a week
  • stools that cause tearing and bleeding near the anus
  • the feeling of not being fully emptied after going to the toilet
  • a painful or distended stomach

Diagnosis

 

If constipation becomes chronic, it is advisable to visit your family doctor or a general practitioner.  The doctor may suggest dietary and lifestyle changes.

Constipation can also be the symptom of an underlying health condition. Therefore, the doctor may suggest the following tests to rule out other health conditions:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can specifically point out thyroid related problems, such as low thyroid.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: In this test the doctor examines your rectum and the lower portion of your colon.
  • Colonoscopy: This test allows your doctor to examine the entire colon with a flexible, camera-equipped tube.
  • Balloon expulsion test: This test measures the amount of time it takes for you to push out a balloon that has been filled with water and placed in your rectum.
  • Anorectal manometry: This test allows your doctor to measure the coordination of the muscles you use to move your bowels.

What are the complications of constipation?


The complications of constipation can include:

  • Hemorrhoids or swollen veins in the anus: While having a bowel movement if you strain often, it may cause swelling in the veins in and around your anus. Infact, chronic constipation can lead to the development of piles.
  • Anal fissure: Straining to pass stools can cause tiny tears in the anus.
  • Fecal impaction: Hardened stool can accumulate and remain stuck in your intestines if you suffer from chronic constipation.
  • Rectal prolapse: This occurs when due to too much straining over time, during bowel movements, causes a small part of the rectum to stretch and protrude from the anus.

What is the treatment of constipation?


Medical Treatment for Constipation

The doctor may prescribe some laxatives for chronic constipation. However, medicines alone are not the answer to ending constipation. It is suggested that you work alongside your doctor to adopt some healthy lifestyle habits, including adopting healthy dietary habits to resolve constipation.


Exercise

Exercising can provide relief from constipation by decreasing the time it takes for the food to move through the large intestine. Exercises such as aerobics accelerate your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the intestinal muscles to contract naturally. When the intestinal muscles contract easily, they help move the stools out smoothly and quickly.

Exercises such as running, jogging, swimming, can keep your digestive tract healthy. Yoga can help cure constipation as can aerobics, and brisk walking.

Would you like to consult a doctor for Constipation ?

Patient Experiences

Gopal Singhania
Constipation Related Issues
We visited to Dr. Sreenivasa D for my Uncle's treatment as he have some constipation related issues. Dr is very good and friendly with us . He was listening patiently to all the problem of my uncle and nicely explained all the things in detail.As on our first visit we only waited for ten to fifteen minutes as doctor was seeing other patients. Doctor has examined all the things and asked for few test fr further consultation. On our second visit when we visit there with all the reports we waited there for overall one and half hour. It was big time to wait. There should be some prioritization for old and follow up patients. we waited for long time for just showing the reports.According to me its not correct. As a follow up patient there should be no need of booking appointment as well.Dr was good in consultation and there is also a improvement in the health condition of my uncle. As dr has told that it will take two months for fully cure so we are still following up with the doctor.My uncle is feeling relief compare to his previous condition. Our overall experience was good with Dr. Sreenivasa except the waiting time. Of they can work on it and improve thins surely i would recommend the Dr to others also. ...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Sreenivasa D
N N Gastroenterology Centre
vivek khanna
Ayurvedic Treatment for Constipation
I rushed to Dr jyoti for my constipation problem and no doubt she helped me a lot. She gave some Ayurvedic medicine along with a proper healthy diet chart. Advised me to be in touch if I feel any issue again....Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. Jyoti Arora Monga
Dr. Monga Clinic
hansalakshmi
Successfully Treated Constipation
we have consulted for my 4 year old daughter for constipation issue. The way she interacted and understand the issue and given me solution for my daughter was absolutely more efficient. From the next day the medicine works well. Thanks for your consultation and the medicine given for my daughter. Thank you Muralidharan (Bangalore)...Read Less
Doctor in this story :Dr. C. Muthunagai
Heritage Ayurveda Clinic

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
Sir i am suffering from constipation what syrup should i take and tell me what type of food will i take please help me?
Dr. Sarthak Chakravarty
General Physician, Varanasi
Constipation at this stage is usually due to roughage less diet. I would suggest you to reduce your non-veg intake and take more of roughage foods like oats barley banana apple lots of fruits green leafy vegetables. Along with that you can try laxatives like dulcoflex one spoon at night before going to bed.
Verified User
I have constipation problem from childhood. These days, its getting worst. Can you please help me in getting rid of this? Please suggest medication
Dr. Harisha N L
General Physician, Bangalore
Increasing Fiber Intake average person needs to consume between 20 and 35 g of fiber daily. Fiber, the part of a food that doesn’t get digested, plays an important role in your digestion. It helps to keep stool moving through your bowels. If you lack enough fiber in your diet, your stool can become stagnate, dry and hard. Increasing your fiber intake will help promote soft and bulky stool. Foods that are fiber-rich include beans, fruits, whole grains, beans and vegetables. Increase Liquids An inadequate amount of liquid in your diet can cause your stool to become dry and impacted. Drink plenty of water, fruit juice, herbal tea and soup broth. Avoid certain beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine because these substances can dehydrate your body, leaving it depleted of water and salts. Lifestyle Adjustments Regular physical activity can stimulate your digestive system, promoting more frequent bowel movements. Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement and take your time. Ignoring or holding a bowel movement can promote further constipation. Don’t force or push too hard or you may develop complications, such as hemorrhoids...consult doctors if symptoms persists long
Ask health queries and get free answers from doctors in 24 hrs

Did you know?

10% of the global populace suffer from constipation

The average population across the globe suffering from chronic constipation is around 10%.

Constipation, a chronic issue in India

About 14% of the Indians suffer from chronic constipation, which higher than the world average!

Constipation statistics in India

Coimbatore has the maximum number of people suffering from chronic constipation (21%), followed by Mumbai (19%), Kolkata and Delhi stand out equal taking occupying the third position (13%), Hyderabad at fourth position (6%) and Lucknow having the least number of sufferers (2%).

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Home Remedies

Drink More Water

Drink at least 10 glasses of warm water everyday. Start by drinking 4 glasses of water on empty stomach early in the morning.

Eat More Fiber

Increasing your fiber intake can increase the bulk and consistency of your bowel movements, making them easier to pass. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits.

Exercise Daily

Leading a sedentary life can lead to chronic constipation. Exercises such as aerobics, jogging, swimming, running can help. Stretching exercises such as different forms of yoga, can help. Even a brisk walk everyday for 30 minutes is sufficient to relieve you from the symptoms of constipation.

Drink Coffee

Coffee can help relieve constipation by stimulating the muscles in the gut. It may also contain small amounts of soluble fiber. Infact caffeinated coffee can stimulate your gut 60% stronger than drinking water.

Take Probiotics

Taking probiotics may help prevent chronic constipation. In your diet you can include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, and kimchi, which contain live, friendly bacteria. You can also try probiotic supplements which can help prevent constipation.

Avoid Dairy Products

Sometimes dairy products can cause constipation especially in people who suffer from lactose intolerance. You can try removing dairy products from your diet to see if it reduce the constipation symptoms, while taking other foods which can provide you with the calcium your body needs.
Book an appointment with a General Physician