Constipation is a common health condition that affects adults, children and the elderly. It is the passage of hard, dry stools that are often infrequent or difficult to pass and is one of the most common health conditions that brings a patient to see their doctor for advice.
Constipation can be caused by many lifestyle factors that are simple to fix. Risk factors for developing constipation include:
- A change in routine
Normal bowel motions depended on the regular and rhythmic contraction of the bowels that is regulated by the body’s internal clock. This can be disturbed when travelling, undertaking shift work or changes in your daily routine.
- Lack of fibre in your diet
Fibre adds to the bulk and softens your stools. This helps the passage of material through the digestive tract making it easier to eventually pass. Good sources of fibre in your diet include fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
Insufficient water causes the poo to become hard and dehydrated and makes it difficult for the poo to move down the intestine. By drinking at least two litres of water a day you soften the stool and prevent constipation.
- Lack of regular exercise
Physical activity helps to relieve constipation because it stimulates the nervous system and helps the muscles and nerves in the gut to work better moving poo through the digestive tract.
- Withholding going to the toilet
When you ignore the urge to go it means that more water will be extracted from the stools making them more difficult to pass. If you regularly ignore the urge this makes the body less sensitive to the normal signals to alert you to go to the toilet and your gut becomes lazy causing a build up of poo in the intestine.
The pressure of a growing baby on the intestine combined with reduced activity and the action of hormones means that constipation is common in pregnancy.
Some medications particular pain strong pain killers, iron supplements and antacids cause constipation by slowing down bowel movements. Often supplements to soften stool and provide bulk will also be prescribed to avoid constipation.
Reduction in normal activity, dehydration and bed rest typically cause constipation.
If you are suffering from constipation or have tried home remedies without relief download our My Emergency Dr app for a confidential online consultation with an expert clinician today.