Constipation is a condition of the digestive system where an individual has hard feces that are difficult to expel. In most cases, this occurs because the colon has absorbed too much water from the food that is in the colon. The slower the food moves through the digestive tract, the more water the colon will absorb from it. Consequently, the feces become dry and hard. When this happens, emptying the bowels can become very painful.
Constipation usually results from not getting enough exercise not drinking enough water or from a diet that does not include an adequate amount of fiber-rich foods like beans, cereals, fruits, raw vegetables, rice, and whole-grain bread. Other causes of constipation include anal fissure or a tear or crack in the lining of the anus, chronic kidney failure, colon or rectal cancer, depression, hypercalcemia (abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood), hyperthyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), and illness requiring complete bed rest, irritable bowel syndrome and stress.
The main symptoms of constipation are increased difficulty and straining when passing stools or passing fewer stools than usual can be a sign of constipation. Other symptoms include Stomach ache, Stomach cramps, Feeling bloated and nauseous, and losing appetite.
There are many tests that can diagnose severe constipation, and most people only need a few basic tests. First the doctor or health care professional will take a medical history and physical examination to allow the doctor to define the type of constipation is present and uncover any supplements or prescription products you are taking or diseases or other health problems you have. Other tests are available for people who have severe constipation that does not respond easily to treatment
A Physical examination may identify diseases (for example, scleroderma) that can cause constipation. A rectal examination with the finger may uncover a tight and sphincter that may be making defecation difficult or it may find that the muscles of the pelvic floor do not relax normally. If a material filled colon can be felt through the abdominal wall, it suggests that it is severe. Stool in the rectum suggests a problem with the Anal, rectal, Pelvic floor muscles.
Blood tests may be appropriate in evaluating your condition. More specifically, blood tests for thyroid hormone (to detect hypothyroidism) and for calcium (to uncover excess parathyroid hormone) may be helpful.
An Abdominal X-ray may identify large amounts of material in the colon usually can be visualized on simple X-ray films of the abdomen and the more severe constipation, the more visualized on X-ray.
A barium enema (lower gastrointestinal series) is an X-ray study in which liquid barium is inserted through the anus to fill the rectum and colon. The barium outlines the colon on the X-rays and defines the normal or abnormal anatomy of the bowel and rectum.
Some additional tests are Colonic transit or marker studies, Defecography, Anorectal motility studies, Magnetic resonance imaging defecography, Colonic motility studies.
Treatment for chronic constipation usually begins with diet and lifestyle changes meant to increase the speed at which stool moves through your intestines. If those changes don’t help your doctor may recommend medications or surgery.
Diet and Lifestyle changes:
Your doctor may recommend the following changes to relieve your constipation.
Increase your fiber intake: Adding fiber to your diet increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines. Slowly begin to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables each day and choose whole-grain bread and cereals.
Exercise most days of the week: Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines. Try to fit in exercise most days of the week.
Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement: Take your time in the bathroom, allowing yourself enough time to have a bowel movement without distractions and without feeling rushed.
Laxatives: Several types of laxatives exist. Each works somewhat differently to make it easier to have a bowel movement. Following are the available laxatives such as
Surgery: Surgery may be an option if you have tried other treatments and your chronic constipation is caused by a blockage, rectocele, anal fissure or stricture.