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Constipation is common among all ages and populations, and it is one of the most frequent gastro-intestinal complaints in the world.

But, what exactly is constipation? What are its symptoms and causes?

Are there any risk factors that make you more prone to having constipation?

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Read on to discover some of the constipation remedy, treatment, constipation relief, symptoms, causes, and risk factors.

Defining Constipation

Constipation is a condition in which a person has infrequent or uncomfortable bowel movements. Commonly, a person is considered to be constipated when bowel movements result in the passage of small amounts of dry, hard stool, usually less than three times a week.

Occasional constipation is very common. However, some people experience chronic constipation that interferes with their ability to perform day-to-day tasks.

Constipation Symptoms

Each person’s definition of normal bowel movements may vary; some individuals may have a bowel movement three times a day or three times a week – it depends on the person.

However, you may be constipated if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Passing dry, hard stools
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Passing less stool than usual
  • Straining when passing stool
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Cramping and in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • A feeling of incomplete emptying
  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week

Constipation Causes

Dry, hard stools are the result of the colon absorbing too much water.

Normally, as food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water while forming stool. Then, muscle contractions push the stool toward the rectum and by the time the stool reaches the rectum, most of the water has been absorbed which makes the stool solid.

When the colon’s muscle contractions are sluggish or slow, the stool moves through the colon too slowly. This results in too much water being absorbed.

Some of the most common causes of constipation include:

  • Aging
  • Low-fiber diet
  • Dehydration
  • Certain medications
  • Lack of exercise
  • Travel or other routine changes
  • Pregnancy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Laxative abuse or misuse
  • Colorectal problems
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement

Constipation Risk Factors

Physical inactivity and a poor diet are major risk factors for constipation. However, you may also be at greater risk if you are:

  • Female. Compared to men, women have more frequent episodes of constipation.
  • Age 60 or older. As people age, the prevalence of constipation tends to increase as well. The exact cause remains unclear. It may be that as people age, people become less mobile which may contribute to constipation. Medications, medical conditions, and a low-fiber diet may also be other factors that lead to constipation with age.
  • Pregnant. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and pressure on your intestines can lead to constipation. 
  • Bed-ridden. People who are bed-ridden due to certain medical conditions, such as spinal cord injuries, typically have difficulty with bowel movements. 

Constipation: How Is It Diagnosed?

The tests performed by a doctor will vary on the severity and duration of the constipation. The doctor will also consider the patient’s age, recent changes in bowel habits, and whether there is blood in the stool.

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Diagnosing constipation may include:

  • Taking your medical history. The doctor will ask for your medical history. They will also ask you to describe the constipation, including frequency of bowel movements, duration of symptoms, and other relevant information to help determine the cause of the constipation.
  • Physical examination. A physical examination may also include a digital rectal examination, in which the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to evaluate the tone of the muscle that closes off the anus. This examination also helps detect obstruction, blood, tenderness, caliber and amount of stool, and if the rectum is enlarged.
  • Other diagnostic tests. The doctor may also perform other diagnostic tests, such as abdominal x-ray, colonoscopy, colorectal transit study lower GI series (barium enema), or anorectal function tests.

Constipation Treatment and Prevention

Oftentimes, constipation can be treated through dietary and lifestyle changes, which can relieve symptoms and prevent the condition.

What is surprising however, is that most of these natural home remedies for constipation that mostly resulted to constipation relief are within our control and can be done naturally at home or in the workplace.

Treatment and prevention methods for constipation may include:

  • Increasing fiber intake. Fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans can help improve gut function. If you have bowel sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid high-fructose fruits, such as pears, watermelons, and pears, which can cause gas.
  • Drink more water. Dehydration can make you become constipated. To prevent this, it’s important to drink enough water and stay hydrated throughout the day. Also, when you’re constipated, you could try finding relief by drinking some carbonated water to help you rehydrate and get things moving again.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercising regularly can increase muscle activity in your intestines. So, make sure to exercise most days of the week. If you don’t already exercise, consult your doctor to see what exercise programs best suit your health and needs.  
  • Try avoiding dairy. In some cases, a dairy intolerance can cause constipation due to its effect on gut movements. Furthermore, children intolerant to cow’s milk and adults with lactose intolerance may experience constipation. If you think that you might have a dairy intolerance, try removing it from your diet temporarily to check if it improves your symptoms.
  • Take an over-the-counter laxative or stool softener. If necessary, take a mild over-the-counter laxative (i.e. Dulcolax [bisacodyl] or Senokot [senna]). Mineral oil enemas like Fleet® are other options as well. There is a wide variety of laxatives available today. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for help in making a choice. Note: Don’t use laxatives for more than two weeks without consulting your doctor. Laxative overuse can worsen constipation.
  • Try a colon management dietary supplement. To help prevent and relieve symptoms of constipation, you can try taking a colon management dietary supplement like TOCOMA.

    TOCOMA is an all-natural, colon management dietary supplement that contains vegetable fiber and mixed fruits. It also contains probiotics that help restore your digestive system’s natural balance – this is particularly helpful if you are suffering from bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.

    TOCOMA is a safe and gentle colon cleanser that will help optimize your colon health.
  • Surgery. If constipation is caused by stricture, rectocele, or a blockage, you may have to undergo surgery. Also, for people who have tried other treatments without success and who have abnormally slow stool movements through the colon, surgical removal of the part of the colon may be an option.  

The Bottom Line

In most cases, if constipation is mild this can easily be treated with dietary and lifestyle changes. However, if you are experiencing chronic constipation or constipation along with other bowel changes, make sure to consult your doctor.

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