Constipation affects more than 2.5 million people annually in the United States. It is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements a week, and occasional constipation is common. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that chronic constipation is a reality many face every day.
Symptoms and Causes
Everyone’s regularity is different, but there are some common symptoms sufferers experience. In addition to having less than three bowel movements a week, other signs consist of:
- Passing lumpy, hard, and dry stools.
- Pain or straining during bowel movements.
- A feeling of fullness, even after having a bowel movement.
- Feeling there is a rectal blockage preventing you from emptying the stool.
Chronic constipation is when you have two or more of these symptoms lasting more than three months. Your colon absorbs the water from the foods you eat and creates stool, then eliminates it. If the stool remains in the colon for too long, it becomes more difficult to pass it. Poor diet causes most cases of constipation, but medical conditions and other factors cause it, also, such as:
- Delaying the need to pass a stool
- Medication side effects
- Stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes
- Hormonal issues
- Problems with the colon or rectum
Can You Prevent Constipation?
Eating a fiber-rich diet and maintaining regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes a week) is the quickest and simplest way to reduce constipation occurrence. Other helpful tips include:
- Ensure you are getting at least 20-35 grams of fiber daily or add a supplement if needed.
- Drink 1 ½ to 2 quarts of unsweetened, non-caffeinated fluids per day to stay hydrated.
- Reduce consumption of alcohol and low-fiber foods like meat, milk, cheese, and processed foods.
- Don’t delay going when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. Remember, the longer stool stays in the colon, the more difficult it becomes to eliminate it.
If your constipation persists, talk with your doctor for additional advice or if treatment may be needed. They can help determine if an underlying medical condition or issue is the cause. Thanks to clinical research studies and volunteers that participate in them, improvements progress in the way we detect, treat, and prevent this condition.
While there is still more work to do, chronic constipation sufferers have hope. Charlottesville Medical Research is currently enrolling participants for constipation studies looking into non-drug treatment options. To learn more, call (434) 817-2442, or visit our website.