Constipation is similar to getting wrinkles and gray hair as we grow old. It is a common digestive complaint especially mild irregularity is possibly more predominant in women than in men. Revitalize Rehab Club has been helping patients around Long Beach and Bixby Knoll’s, therapy and guidance to live an active and healthy life.
Constipation can be functional or organic. The latter means there is an identifiable cause like a neurological issue or colon disorder. The former means the cause is not identifiable. In any case, the experience is not pleasant.
Constipation and its negative effects
Constipation is a condition that is generally defined as having less than 3 bowel movements in a week. The stools are dry, compact, and hard to pass. It makes you feel completely invalid while using the bathroom. Chronic constipation relief must not be ignored. It is a nuisance to leave constipation untreated. There are potential side effects like –
- Hemorrhoid cushions getting enlarged due to straining
- Small tears [anal fissures]
- Colon ulceration due to stagnant stool sitting for long in the intestine.
- The stool can even wedge the release of waste from the body leading to nausea and vomit. These are signs of bowel obstruction
Chronic constipation may need help like pressing hands on your abdomen to empty the rectum. When you feel three or more of the given symptoms in the last three months then it is time to contact your doctor.
- Hard stools
- Excessive strain
- Feel blockage in the rectum
- Feel the pressure on the rectum even after a bowel movement
- Need physical help to remove stool from the rectum
Sometimes chronic constipation transforms into a form of the disease that needs longer treatment.
Chronic constipation disease
Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation [IBS-C]
IBS-C is a chronic disease. You may possibly handle symptoms and require lifelong treatment. There is no clarity on how IBS is caused but it is assumed to the consequence of how your gut and brain interact with one another.
IBS-C symptoms –
- Abdominal cramp and pain
- Release of mucus
- Occasional urgent diarrhea
- Excessive gassiness
Chronic Idiopathic Constipation [CIC]
The cause of this kind of severe kind of constipation is unknown, so it is called idiopathic. Generally, the symptoms of IBS-C and CIC are the same.
Warning signs of worsening CIC conditions
- Blood in stool
- Symptoms initiate after age 50
- Low blood count
- Family history of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and bowel cancer
- No response to constipation drugs
- Unexplained loss of weight
Constipation causes and risk factors
There is a wide range of constipation causes as well as risk factors ranging from improper diet to severe disorders.
Constipation causes fall under three categories.
- Slow transit – Slow movement of stool in the digestive tract makes you feel constipated. The reasons for sluggishness include dehydration, low-fiber diet, and medications, or drugs. Even intestinal blockage due to strictures or cancer [narrowing of the areas] is a potential cause of sluggish bowel movement.
- Nerve signaling issues – Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease is a neurological problem. This can badly affect the stool movement in the GI.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction – Weakening of pelvic floor or other muscles can contribute to constipation. Pelvic floor muscle has to function in a specific way for stool to move across the rectum.
Risk factors of acute or chronic constipation
Constipation means your gut does not agree with your lifestyle.
- Diet loaded with dairy products and meat.
- Excessive consumption of processed food high in sugar and fat.
- Drinking less fluids and water.
- Insufficient high-fiber food in your diet.
- A lot of caffeine or alcohol.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Avoiding the urge of using the bathroom.
Underlying health conditions
- Hyperparathyroidism – Overactive parathyroid glands secrete excessive parathyroid hormone. The calcium level in the blood increases triggering hypercalcemia. Too much calcium in the bloodstream obstructs bowel movement.
- Diabetes – Insufficient insulin can cause diabetic neuropathy. The nerves that control the digestive tract can get damaged leading to issues in bowel movement.
- Hypothyroidism – Insufficient hormones can impact metabolism drastically. The entire digestion process slows down leading to constipation.
- Pregnancy – The body produces more progesterone, which makes it hard for the muscles in the intestines to contract.
- Multiple sclerosis – This is a condition that badly damages the nervous system, which in turn hinders stool movement.
- Anxiety disorder – The sympathetic nervous system is overactive when you are stressed or anxious. This places your digestive process on hold.
- Depression – Depressed people show decreased physical activity. Even their diet changes. They prefer high fat or sugary food or totally avoid food. This can cause constipation.
In these conditions, there is an imbalance in hormonal fluids that can disturb bowel movements. The other risk factors are dehydration, eating a low-fiber diet, no or little physical activity, certain medications, mental health problems, etc.
How to ease acute or chronic constipation symptoms?
Poor diet and lack of exercise are the main culprits of constipation. Therefore, add some movement and high fiber foods in your daily routine. Never kick start with a huge lifestyle change, at once. It will be hard to maintain the changes for long. Therefore, add a couple until they get established in your daily routine.
- Eat meals on a scheduled time daily.
- Drink warm water as soon as you wake up.
- Add some light exercise after breakfast.
- Climb the stairs rather than taking the elevator.
- Choose fruit for snacks.
- Add high fiber foods to your means like legumes and beans.
- Don’t ignore the urge to visit the toilet. Never ‘hold it’.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Schedule uninterrupted time for bowel movements daily to instill a regular pattern.
Eat dietary fiber
Dietary fiber comprises of complex carbohydrates. Foods high in fiber are –
- Whole wheat bread
- Bran flakes
- Shredded wheat
- Beans and lentils
Juices don’t have dietary fiber, so eat the only whole fruit. Dairy products and mean don’t have any fiber. Drink at least 2 liters of water daily.
Consider probiotic food
Some bacteria are healthy for your gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes their level is insufficient, which affects the health of the gastrointestinal tract causing inflammation. According to studies, food rich in probiotics helps to enhance IBS symptoms. Yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut are foods rich in probiotics.
Laxatives are not a long-term solution for your constipation issue. Taking too often is bad and can cause dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. Laxative can be taken occasionally to keep things moving. There are different kinds of laxatives, so you need to know about them and how they will relieve you from constipation.
- Stool softeners – It adds water to the stool and softens it, making it easy to pass. It is better at preventing constipation instead of treating it.
- Osmotic agents – Fluid gets retained in the stool. Long time use can trigger harsh effects like dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, diarrhea, and cramping.
- Stimulant laxatives – It stimulates the intestine and makes it contract, thus enabling the stool to move forward. Aggressive laxative type, which can damage large intestine functioning. It makes you dependent on the laxative for a bowel movement.
For IBS-C or CIC, the doctor will prescribe Lubiprostone that stimulates the small intestine and more fluid gets released. This makes it easy for the passing of stool.
This is the last solution for people struggling with grave symptoms of CIC conditions. Surgery is an alternative for those struggling with gastrointestinal tract blockage. Anal fissures don’t allow the bowel to pass through the GI tract, which causes constipation and GI distress symptoms. Doctors can suggest colon surgery, where the blocked portion is removed. It is a rarely used option.
Wondering, how can physical therapy help in constipation? At Revitalize Rehab Club, training is given on how to relax pelvic floor muscles. The timing has to be correct during defecation. This helps to pass stool easily.
Pelvic physical therapy also includes abdominal massage, myofascial release, postural education, breathing technique, therapeutic and coordination exercises are common interventions applied.
How chronic constipation disrupts the sufferer’s daily lives?
Chronic constipation diseases like CIC and IBS-C impedes the daily routines of the sufferer. The irritation of feeling sick, uncomfortable, and bloated never seems to end. Constant pain makes moving around or sitting at the desk or grocery shopping a challenging task.
Sufferers claim that they fear meals because of the thought of getting stuck in the bathroom seems like a nightmare. Pelvic floor problems ruin their sexual life and workouts cause severe bloating. Severe constipation can make sufferers miss their work and too much absence increases the possibility of job loss.
Is constipation fatal?
Organic constipation is rare but can be fatal. Hospitalization for organic constipation is due to –
Medication side effects – Diuretics, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, antidepressants, OTC antacids, and calcium channel blockers cause painful constipation symptoms but narcotics are notorious in blocking bowel movements.
Metabolic & muscular – Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Celiac disease, and Hypothyroidism can cause organic constipation.
Structural abnormalities – Colon cancer, anal fissures, pelvic floor dysfunction, Parkinson’s, and proctitis are abnormalities that can trigger organic constipation.
In extreme situations, organic constipation can kill. So, get yourself diagnosed to identify the root cause because underlying constipation symptoms can turn out to be fatal.
Constipation stinks but proper diagnoses and holistic treatment can help to overcome this condition from becoming worse.