Constipation means that it is difficult to have bowel movements or that they occur less frequently than what is considered normal. The number of bowel movements an individual typically has varies per person, but three per week is the most commonly reported average.
It is normal to experience occasional constipation and is rarely a cause for alarm. Chronic constipation can impact the daily routine of a person and become life-threatening if not addressed in time.
Constipation happens due to stool traveling too slowly through the digestive tract. As the stool spends an abnormal amount of time in the large intestine, it begins to dry out and turn into a hard, dehydrated obstruction that is difficult to eliminate.
There are several causes of constipation: diet, an underlying medical disorder, or a blockage in the colon or rectum. Individuals at a greater risk for constipation include: being an older adult, being a woman, taking certain medications such as sedatives or anti-depressants, and being dehydrated.
Constipation symptoms include but are not limited to:
If you are having a hard time going to the bathroom and experiencing any of the above, then you may be constipated.
Treating constipation with home remedies is possible by consuming a well-balanced diet, including high-fiber foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly. Over-the-counter medicine, such as a stool softener or laxative, can also be taken to aid in bowel elimination; in more complex cases, you may require prescription medication. In these instances, your primary care physician can help you treat your constipation. Individuals suffering from chronic constipation due to structural anomalies in the colon may require surgery for treatment. If constipation goes untreated it can lead to unpleasant complications such as hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse, a condition in which too much pressure forces part of the intestine out of the anus. Rectal prolapse is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
If your constipation is mild and you would like to try some at-home treatment, you may consider eating the following foods: prunes, apples, pears, leafy greens, sweet potato, beans and lentils, flaxseeds, oats, and kefir.
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