Constipation is defined as a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements, or difficulty in passing the stool. Each individual has a particular bowel pattern, and what is normal varies widely. There is no medical evidence that daily bowel movements are required for good health. If the stool is both normally formed and passed without excessive straining, the person is not constipated, even though he or she may have a bowel movement only once or twice a week.
Causes of Constipation
Diet, exercise and medication are all factors that can affect bowel function. It is more important to take note of any change in bowel habits than to worry unnecessarily about whether your regular pattern of bowel movements is normal. If, for example, you suddenly become constipated and the problem doesn’t resolve itself within a few days, it may be a symptom of an underlying disease. The chances of this being a major illness are extremely slight, but the following conditions all may have constipation as one of their symptoms.
Waste material is moved through the colon by rhythmic contractions of the colonic muscles. In some conditions, these muscles lose their tone and are unable to function properly. People who regularly ignore the call to stool, run the risk of developing a lazy bowel.
Constipation is common during pregnancy. There is a higher level of hormone progesterone present in the body, especially during the later months of pregnancy, which causes the smooth muscle of the bowel wall to become sluggish. The uterus is also increasing in size and pressing on the bowels, pushing them upward and backward. The problem can best be prevented by a proper diet ie. taking enough fiber and fluids, and exercise.
Simple inactivity can be a cause of constipation. Any medical problem that confines you to bed for a few days is likely to make you constipated. People with short term or long term physical handicaps that restrict their level of activity are likely to suffer constipation at some time.
A number of medicines can affect bowel contractions, resulting in constipation. Codeine and codeine derivatives are among the more common examples; others responsible are antacids, iron pills and antidepressants. Irritable bowel syndrome This disorder involves the small intestine and colon, and is associated with varying degrees of abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea. It may be a reaction to stress in some people who are susceptible to developing it.
Dieting is so popular today that it is easy to overlook the fact that you may be imposing a radically new regime on your digestive system. It will take time for your body to accommodate any change of this kind. If your eating habits change permanently, your bowel pattern may do the same.
An under active thyroid gland may effect the contractions of the bowel muscles, causing constipation. People with thyroid deficiency tend to feel apathetic and sluggish, and to be sensitive to cold. The skin becomes dry, cool and rough, the hair brittle, and the voice sounds low and husky. Pulse rate is slow and it is common to put on weight.
The first symptom of appendicitis is pain, which usually starts in the upper abdomen then moves to the lower righthand side. Constipation may occur as a symptom, with nausea, vomiting and fever.
Diabetes mellitus may effect the contractions of the intestine. The result could be either diarrhea or constipation. However, the classic signs of constipation are excessive urination, an excessive hunger and possibly weight loss despite increased food intake. Without these major symptoms, constipation is very unlikely to indicate the onset of diabetes mellitus.