Regular bowel movements are important for everyone’s health, and if something occurs to cause a disruption in those bowel movements, then it is important to get things moving again in the digestive tract. If not, this problem of an inability of a person to have a bowel movement is called constipation, and in order to keep good health it must be treated and resolved.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is described as having less than three bowel movements a week, and is considered to be more severe if there is less than one bowel movement a week. It also involves extremely hard and dry stools that a person has trouble passing when they go to the bathroom. It can cause straining and pain, as well as feeling like there is still something left and that the bowel movement is incomplete. In fact, there are actually several versions of constipation, some mild and some severe.
Some kinds of constipation can happen for a short period of time, while some diseases can cause chronic constipation to occur. The main kinds of constipation is acute, psychosomatic, hypotonic, rectal and functional. Some of these require a doctor’s attention to treat, while others may respond to home remedies for constipation. Whatever the type of cause of the constipation, this problem is not uncommon, especially with older adults or pregnant women.
What causes constipation?
Causes of constipation vary from stress to poor nutrition to some kinds of illnesses. Some prescription medications too can cause side effects of constipation, such as blood pressure calcium channel blockers, narcotics, pain medication, iron, antidepressants, decongestants, and anticonvulsants, as well as antacids with calcium or magnesium.
Acute constipation as the name suggests comes on abruptly and may end up being severe enough to require immediate medical assistance to discover the cause. Psychosomatic constipation is usually caused by too much stress such as if someone is under pressure at work or they are travelling, etc. It usually goes away if the outside cause is taken away.
If someone has a chronic version of constipation that is when hypotonic constipation can happen. This type of constipation is caused by a week abdominal muscle and the person is unable to defecate normally because the muscles are too weak to work properly in the intestines. It can be caused by many things such as being too sedentary, not enough fiber in the diet, and not enough water in the diet.
The opposite of this is hypertonic, which is also called spastic constipation. This means the person experiences cramps and pain, but still can’t defecate. The stool instead doesn’t move through the intestines properly. This can cause someone to develop irritable bowel syndrome, a condition of alternating diarrhea and constipation.
Rectal constipation is caused by a person’s bathroom habits. It happens when someone repeatedly doesn’t go to the bathroom even when they feel the urge to defecate, which eventually causes the body to refuse to send the proper signal to the brain to produce a bowel movement. Then, the person will get dried up stool inside the intestines and become obstructed and unable to defecate.
Functional constipation means that a reason can’t be found as to why a seemingly healthy individual develops constipation and no cause can be found. There is also a similar type of constipation called idiopathic, which doesn’t respond to regular treatment. Idiopathic constipation seemingly has no cause as well and is sometimes hard to treat since the doctor doesn’t know what started it.
Many people believe in home remedies for constipation and will try some of them to cure their bowel movement issues, however, some of the reasons for constipation involve things such as not enough fiber to keep the stool soft, as well as overuse of laxatives, hormone imbalances (i.e. not enough thyroid, or too much estrogen or progesterone, which is why pregnant women get constipated), or various diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, and others.
Medical Remedies for Constipation
If someone has constipation, a doctor may suggest certain kinds of medications. These include:
Laxatives – Some of the kinds of laxatives are fiber supplements (i.e. Metamucil or Citrucel), stimulants (i.e. Correctol, Dulcolax or Senokot), lubricants (i.e. mineral oil), stool softeners (i.e. Colace or Surfak), osmotics (i.e. Miralax, Sobitol or Cephulac), chloride channel activators (i.e. Amitiza) or 5-HT-4 agonists (i.e. Prucalopride).
If the constipation is caused by obstructions or stool that has become hard and impacted inside the intestines, then a person may have to undergo an enema and have the stool manually removed from the body. If there is some sort of blockage, such as a foreign object that didn’t make it through the digestive tract then a person could even have to have surgery to relieve any obstruction in the intestines. A type of medical doctor that specializes in issues like constipation is called a Gastroenterologist. If you are having problems, your regular doctor can likely get you a consultation with this type of specialist.
List of Home Remedies for Constipation
If you want to try home remedies for constipation first before seeing your doctor, then here are some suggestions that could help get your bowel movements back to normal if they are not caused by some underlying illness or condition:
Fiber – Fiber is considered to be a great way to forestall or cure constipation. If you eat high fiber cereal such as bran or whole grains, it can add insoluble fiber to your diet and that gives the stool more bulk, which can help prevent constipation. Other foods that can help put fiber into a person’s diet are beans, prunes, raisins, blackstrap molasses, oatmeal, figs, or whole grains. Flaxseed and psyllium seed are also good sources of fiber. These can be added to other foods such as putting a couple of tablespoons full into your cereal or a smoothie.
Hot Drinks – Believe it or not, coffee can help relieve constipation, as caffeine is known to be bowel loosening. But you don’t always need caffeine, drinking some decaffeinated herbal tea such as dandelion tea, or even just some hot water and lemon can be a good daily habit to prevent constipation.
Castor Oil or Olive Oil – These oils will stimulate the intestines and help cure constipation. It only takes one or two teaspoons and about eight hours to work its magic. Take it on an empty stomach for best results.
Regular exercise – Taking a daily walk or doing some daily exercise can also help move the digestive system and make bowel movements easier.
Acupressure – If pressure is placed onto the area that is about four finger widths up from the wrist and onto the back part of the forearm, and kept up for two minutes, it can help to stimulate the digestive system.
Aloe Vera Gel — Pure Aloe Vera from a plant is best. Use two tablespoons of the gel and mix it with some fruit juice. If you can’t get the gel, you can also drink a cup of Aloe Vera juice and get the same results.
Probiotics — Probiotics are good bacteria in the intestines that aid digestion, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Sacchromyces boulardi. These can be taken in pill form or by eating foods like yogurt. Be sure the yogurt says on the label that there are live cultures in it for best results.
The bottom line is that constipation is not a pleasant problem, but it is something that many people get at least a few times in their lives. It can be a simple case of being nervous or eating unfamiliar foods while on vacation, but it could also have underlying serious causes, and should not be taken lightly. If you are suffering from constipation problems and the above home treatments aren’t helping, then you should see your doctor for a consultation.