Constipation is characterized by bowel movemens that happen that occur less than three times per week, and poop that is hard, dry, small, and difficult to excrete. Constipation is painful to some people and it is often accompanied by straining and stomach stomach bloating. The clinical definition of constipation is having any two of the following symptoms for at least 3 months within the previous 12 months:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Lumpy or hard stool
  • Sensation of incomplete defecation
  • Sensation of blockage/obstruction
  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week

Normal stool elimination may be three times a day or three times a week, highly varied from person to person and factors like dietary fiber consumption. Constipation itself isn't an illness or a disease. Constipation is a symptom that almost everyone experiences at some time. Most constipation can be improved with better diet and is not dangerous.

More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation. Constipation is common in women, adults over 65, and pregnant women. Self-treatment of constipation with over the counter laxatives is by far the most common aid.

As food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water from the food while it forms poop. By the time stool reaches the rectum it is solid without water which had been absorbed. If the colon absorbs too much water and the stool moves through the colon too slowly, and hardens even more, constipation occurs.

Constipation Causes

Not enough dietary fiber, not enough exercise, some medications (read side-effects), milk, irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, aging, and travel and environmental changes, dehydration many diseases or conditions like colon and rectum problems and chronic idiopathic constipation.

Foods low in dietary fiber are milk products like cheese, eggs, and meats. If your diet consists of mainly these foods, you may be at risk of constipation. Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. If you do get constipation, try to drink more water and fluids, and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and maybe take out some meat and dairy. While liquids can help, drinks that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, alcohol, and carbonated drinks will worsen constipation symptoms by causing dehydration.

Intestinal obstruction from scar tissue from diverticulosis, tumors, colorectal stricture, Hirschsprung disease, or colon cancer can compress, squeeze, or narrow the intestine and rectum and cause constipation.

Types of Constipation

The two types of constipation are

  • Idiopathic constipation - constipation does not respond to standard treatment
  • Functional constipation - the bowel is healthy but not working properly, often due to poor diet or lifestyle
Functional constipation due to anus problems is known as anorectal dysfunction, or anismus, resulting in an inability to relax the rectal and anal muscles that allow stool to exit.

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