Constipation symptoms and relief
Many elderly people seek constipation relief. This bowel problem affects millions of individuals worldwide and the causes are varied. Constipation is the most common problem of the bowel. Individuals with constipation symptoms often complain of hard stools, irregular bowel movements and pain during passage of stools. Fortunately, in the majority of people constipation is a short lived problem.
People should understand that by missing bowel movement one day does not mean that one is constipated. Constipation is generally diagnosed when an individual has less than 2 bowel movements in a week, has excessive hard stools, there is straining during bowel movements and there is a feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation. Some even have to use manual measures such as finger manipulation to evacuate stool.
There are many causes of constipation such as:
Dehydration or lack of fluid intake
Inadequate amount of fiber in the diet
Lack of exercise
Changes in life style like aging or long travel
Medical disorders like stroke, paralysis, diabetes, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s disease
Physiological conditions like pregnancy
Excessive use of laxatives
In rare cases, constipation symptoms may herald something more sinister like colon cancer or autoimmune disorders. In children, the most common cause of constipation is Hirshprung’s disease – a disorder where the nerves that stimulate colon movements are absent.
When constipation is not treated one can develop hemorrhoids, have fecal impaction, very painful bowel movements, and even develop prolapse of the rectum. The diagnosis of constipation is based on history and duration of constipation. Constipation which is chronic is often investigated to rule out any blockage in the intestine or any medical disorder like hypothyroidism or diabetes.
Most cases of constipation can be resolved with simple alterations in diet and lifestyle. A high fiber diet includes addition of whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables in the diet. One should limit processed foods like meat, cheese and starch products. Exercise is also highly recommended to treat constipation as this will stimulate the bowel to move. One should also drink a lot of fluids to help soften the stools. One should never be in a rush to go the bathroom.
There are many types of laxatives that can be used to treat constipation. Some stimulate the bowel like Dulcolax; lubricants like mineral oil can ease stools, stool softeners like Colace can hydrate the stools and fibers like Citrucel increase the bulk and stimulate bowel movements. There are also drugs like Amitiza which can relieve constipation but are not for routine cases of constipation. The latest drug to relieve constipation includes agents like prulopride which stimulate the bowel to move.
The best way to relieve constipation is to prevent it in the first place. Eating a high fiber diet, drinking lots of fluid and exercise regularly can prevent most cases of constipation. Constipation relief with the use of laxatives should generally be a last resort for all healthy individuals.