Don’t you just hate being constipated, the way you feel lethargic and bloated. You are not alone as constipation is becoming an increasingly common problem in the UK and US. According to WebMD you are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time.
- Hard stools more than 25% of the time.
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time.
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.
Billions are spent on laxatives each year, and yet constipation is still on the rise.
So what is constipation? Constipation is the slow movement of stool through the colon. According to Medicinenet.com, the two disorders limited to the colon that cause constipation are colonic inertia and pelvic floor dysfunction. Constipation is seen as somewhat benign and easily treated. However, a Canadian study completed in 2002 concluded that constipation significantly impairs health-related quality of life! For those suffering from this condition, we heartily agree. Additionally, physical and psychological effects of constipation are intricately linked – as constipation can be exasperated by stress.
To have a good bowel movement you need peristalsis, fibre, and moisture. Your colon absorbs lots of water. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, hard, dry stools are the result of the colon absorbing too much water. Normally, as food moves through the colon (also known as the large intestine) the colon absorbs water while forming stool (waste products). Muscle contractions then push the stool toward the rectum, and, by the time the stool reaches the rectum, most of the water has been absorbed, making the stool solid.
Stress can also contribute to occasional constipation. Typically when a person is stressed they don’t eat right, sleep well, forget to drink plenty of water, skip moving around or getting some exercise, and may ignore the body’s messages that it is time to “go.” All these behaviors can contribute to a lifestyle that makes a person susceptible to irregularity and constipation.
Too little activity or exercise is another cause of occasional constipation. It just makes good sense. If you fail to move your body your digestive system slows down! People who are hospitalised, and/or bedridden and cannot exercise, often find themselves with constipation.
Many medications—both prescription and over-the-counter medications—can cause constipation. Sometimes your body will adjust to the medication and regulate itself but in other cases especially with certain pain, high blood pressure, and cholesterol medications, constipation may become an ongoing problem.