Constipation

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About Constipation

Constipation can mean going to the toilet to pass stools less often or passing small amounts of hard or painful stools. There is a wide variation of how many times a person may pass stools; with some people going 2-3 times a day, but others may go 2-3 times a week. Every individual is different in their bowel motions, and therefore constipation can mean different things.  

Symptoms of Constipation

The main symptoms are 

  • Bowel motions less often from the individual's normal
  • Passing small amount of stools (they may like look rabbit droppings)   
  • Passing hard or painful stools 
  • In severe constipation people may suffer from abdominal pains, bloatedness and nausea 
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There are a number of causes which include 

  • Not eating enough fibre which is found in fruits, vegetables, and  wholemeal
  • Not staying well hydrated
  • Medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases, and thyroid gland problems 
  • Medications such as anti-depressants, iron tablets, painkiller (codeine based ones) and many others
  • Idiopathic causes- this means that we don't usually find a cause which is common if a person has a good fibre diet and is hydrated. We then classify the constipation as functional 

The treatment and prevention is divided into the following categories:

  • Lifestyle measures
    • Increasing your fibre intake
      • By eating more fruit and vegetables; prunes in particular are helpful. 
      • Switch to wholemeal based foods- like bread and biscuits 
    • Drink more water- aim to have 2L of water a day 
    • Exercise regularly- as keeping active actually helps gut mobilisation 
    • Have a good toilet routine- this means go to the bathroom straight away when you feel the need to, don't hold it in and when you are there avoid straining 
  • Medications- these are known as Laxatives and there are a few different types
    • Stimulant laxatives- these stimulate the activity of the bowel to help bowel movements. 
    • Bulk forming laxatives- act to bulk stools in a similar way to fibre. Commonly these would be natural or artificial fibre supplements 
    • Osmotic laxatives- these work to keep water within the large bowel and this process helps bowel movement as well as the bulk of the stools 
    • Stool Softener- these work by softening the faeces and are helpful in people passing hard or painful stools 

Treatment can be a combination of lifestyle advice, and medications. A doctor will be able to guide you on what would be best suited to you. 

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