Explaining Some Causes Of Common Constipation
Slow moving fecal matter through the intestinal tract causes constipation. Most of the time, the slowing of fecal matter does not occur until it reaches the colon. Many people suffer with constipation due to their diets, especially low daily intake of fiber. This is especially true about elderly people that do not eat enough to suffice the fiber necessary for normal bowel movements. The same is also true about water intake in the elderly as well. However, in many elderly people, the side effects of daily medications, a great decrease in their levels of physical activity and medical problems like hypothyroidism can also cause constipation. Colorectal cancer is another cause of constipation in elderly people as well.
In most cases, constipation is not caused by an actual intestinal structural anomaly. For most people, disorders of the lower digestive tract cause the uncomfortable symptoms of constipation. Women suffer more so than men with constipation that has no apparent organic cause. Functional constipation, also referred t as primary, is the most common cause of constipating symptoms lasting for longer than six month time periods. For most people, this form of constipation does carry painful abdominal cramping or gas with it as side effects.
Common Causes For Constipation
- Poor diet that does not include enough water or fiber daily
- Traveling can cause a timing interruption in your regular routine that can cause constipation
- Low or no physical activity
- Eating too many dairy products
- Daily pressures and stress
- Taking too many laxatives
- Some diseases like Parkinson’s can cause chronic constipation
- Hypothyroidism can cause constipation
- Medications for heartburn and acid reflux that contain aluminum and calcium
- Pregnancy and childbirth: The tears that occur to the perineal area during natural childbirth can create tenderness that causes resistance to bowel movements. Rarely have stretched skin and tissue been the cause of nerve damage that creates constipation, but it has occurred.
- Cancer in the colon
- Eating habit disorders like anorexia
Putting off a bowel movement is a common occurrence and cause for constipation. For some people, psychological problems may be the reason they put off regular trips to the restroom. Some people will not go into a public restroom for a bowel movement, thus causing the in many cases, to put it off. The pain of hemorrhoids can be another reason many people dread having a bowel movement and delay it for as long as possible, thus leading to constipation. Because having a bowel movement can be controlled by voluntary actions, putting it off is easy. However, the more someone makes putting off bowel movements as a regular habit, the risk for greater constipation occurs.
The Constipating Side Effects Of Medications
Many over the counter and prescription drugs cause constipation and in some cases, the symptoms can be severe and painful. Many people undergoing surgery are given stool softeners as a precautionary measure for this reason. The most common medications that cause constipation are:
- Iron supplementation
- Elavil and Endep (amitriptyline) and Tofranil(imipramine)are anti-depressants that carry constipation as a side effect
- Narcotic pain relievers: hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and morphine. Narcotic drug receptors are found in the digestive tract, thus causing a great slowing of fecal movement when narcotics are introduced.
- Cardizem(diltiazem) and Procardia(nifedipine) are calcium channel blockers drugs used to treat high blood pressure that also cause constipating effects
- Anticonvulsant drugs
- Antacids that contain aluminum: Preventing heartburn by watching your intake of foods can help you avoid the need for antacids. However, if one brand does cause constipation and you must have heartburn relief, you might think about trying another brand of antacid that does not contain aluminum
- Anti-spasmodic drugs
- Serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac, also used to treat depression
- Diuretics: When you take a diuretic, you are flushing excess water from your system. However, too much water loss can cause constipation. the intestinal tract must remain healthily hydrated for proper waste elimination to occur.
Several medications cause constipation. If you take any drug you suspect is causing you to be constipated, taking another medication in its place can help. Talk to your doctor about the substitutes that would be better for you. You can also add more fiber and water to your diet while taking some medications that will help ease the constipating effects as well. You should know that taking some over the counter drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin for long term periods can also create constipating conditions in the intestinal tract. People taking antidepressants might consider taking a stool softener for preventing the side effects of constipation with antidepressant medications. Researchers have found that people dealing with depression may also have greater occurrences of IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, as well. Depression has been found to cause constipation and while medical professionals are unsure why, it could have a great deal to do with depressed people not being active enough to promote healthy bowel movements.
Medical Conditions And Constipation
Many medical conditions greatly affect the intestinal tract, causing constipation to be great in some cases. Conditions like hypothyroidism, cystic fibrosis, diabetes and many more conditions carry constipation as a symptom. Diabetes causes neuropathy that can cause problems with constipation. Diseases that affect the muscles like myotonic dystrophy can also cause constipation as well.
Some structural problems can also cause constipation. Spinal cord lesions, pelvic floor dysfunction and anal fissures are some of the structural issues that can create the perfect environment for constipation. Many people also suffer with neurological issues that cause constipation. The disease known as Hirschsprung's is a common reason many babies experience constipation. The condition known as descending perineum syndrome, also called anismus, also causes structural troubles that interfere with healthy elimination of fecal waste. Scleroderma, Chagas disease and colon cancer are diseases that also cause constipation. Patients suffering with multiple sclerosis or injuries to the spinal cord can have issues with constipation also.
Some digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis and Chrohn’s disease can create several symptoms that are discomforting, constipation and diarrhea being a couple of them. These diseases are referred to as inflammatory bowel diseases and can cause constipation that is painful. Rectal inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis causes constipation while small intestinal obstruction can create severe constipation in people suffering with Chrohn’s disease.
The Overuse of Laxatives
Lots of people have suffered permanent damage to their colon and intestinal tract due to taking too many stimulating laxatives. The stimulants in these kinds of laxatives can cause damage to delicate nerves in the intestinal tract. These are the nerves that also send signals to the brain as urges to have a bowel movement, thus leading to chronic constipation. Most doctors recommend avoiding stimulating laxatives if at all possible for these reasons.
How Hormones Can Affect Bowel Movements
The hormones in the body control and regulate a great many processes, one of them being bowel movements. For example, hypothyroidism can cause constipation due to causing the lack of enough thyroid hormones. The metabolic rate in the gut is greatly influenced by the thyroid hormones. However, too much thyroid hormone can also cause constipation, generally occurring when calcium levels in the blood are too high. Bear in mind, however, that not every person that has thyroid problems experiences chronic bouts of constipation. Women experiencing monthly menstrual cycles may also experience constipation due to fluctuating hormones, the same reason many pregnant women do as well.
Nerves And Muscles In The Gastrointestinal Tract
Some conditions caused by nerve and muscle problems in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the colon, can cause great constipation. When the nerves are not functioning properly in the colon, a condition called colonic inertia is the direct result. Without properly functioning nerves in the colon, fecal matter cannot be moved through correctly. Medical professionals are not sure the reasons this type of nerve or muscle damage occurs. Some researchers believe the over use of stimulating laxatives could be the culprit.
When the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor muscles are not functioning properly, the result is a condition called pelvic floor dysfunction. The person suffering with this condition has problems defecating because the muscles that make it happen around the anus are not working properly. The reasons for the development of this condition are at present still unknown.
Your diet plays a huge role in how healthy your digestive tract is and how well it functions in the process of waste elimination. Some foods can create constipation and some do so more so than others. For many people eating chocolate seems to cause constipation. In a 2005 study, study participants were found to have greater issues with constipation after eating certain types of chocolates. However, no real conclusive evidence has been found to support chocolate causing severe constipation. Others foods like bananas and cheese have also been thought to cause constipating effects as well. For lots of people, eating too many dairy products can create serious and painful bouts of constipation. Medical researchers believe that dairy products cause constipation more so than some other foods due to being high in fat and low in fiber content. Simply increasing your healthy intake of daily fiber can help to decrease the occurrence of this type of constipation. Eating balanced meals can help to offset the constipating effects of some foods like cheeses. Eating plenty lettuce or other greens along with cheese can help to move it through your colon without constipating incident.
Diagnostics For Issues Related To Constipation
Patients suffering with symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, headaches and distension may be asked by their physician to undergo several diagnostic tests for helping to pinpoint the causes. Blood tests may be performed for checking the level of calcium in your blood to determine the presence of too many parathyroid hormones or for looking closely at thyroid hormonal activity in your blood. Many people experience nervousness and exhaustion relate to chronic constipation also. Your doctor will complete a physical examination and talk to you about your family history as well. Some issues that run in families can cause an easier development of constipation. You may be asked to keep a journal of all the foods and beverages you intake during a week also. Writing down every food can help your doctor pinpoint certain constipating foods or drinks you may be eating or drinking.
Your doctor will discuss with your diet for learning habits that could be contributing to constipation. You may be eating too little fiber or maybe you are not taking in enough fluids. You and your health care provider can learn a great deal through discussion about your diet and lifestyle.
A physical exam that includes checks for constipating causes could include an abdominal palpitation. During an abdominal palpitation, your doctor may feel for scybala. Scybala is the feces inside your intestinal hat can be felt through palpitations. The anal sphincter may also be manually examined for tone and muscle strength as well. Rectal exams help your physician to learn about the presence of polyps, tumors and hemorrhoids. A rectal exam can also help your doctor learn if your anal sphincter is too tight, thus not allowing easy passage for fecal matter. If fecal matter is backed up in the colon, your doctor may suspect issues with pelvic floor or anal muscles. Some rectal exams are done using a technique called colonoscopy. A colonscope is an instrument that allows the doctor to have an internal view of the intestinal tract. In more extreme cases of constipation, abdominal x-rays or ultrasounds may be done to check for bowel obstruction and blockages.
Sacral Nerve Stimulation
A newer therapy has been found to be effective for people suffering with severe defecatory syndrome, SDD. During the process of waste moving through the bowels, signals called colonic propagating pressure wave sequences, PSs, are necessary. Without PSs, fecal matter does not move, thus creating severe constipation and impaction. Stimulating the sacral nerve has been found to work in some patients with SDD.
Illuminating The Colon And The Rectum
Your doctor may prescribe a lower GI series X-ray study to learn more about your constipation. During this test, liquid barium is put through the anus into the colon and rectum. Barium works to outline the colon and rectum underneath an X-ray. Your physician can learn if you have severe fecal impaction or tumors using this test. A defecography test also uses barium, but is placed as a paste inside the walls of the rectum. X-ray images are taken when the patient defecates, eliminating the barium paste. This test can show the actual movement occurring inside the rectum, allowing doctors to catch problems with the sphincter and other pelvic floor muscles. Doctors can also use an instrument that enhances a defecography test that is used in ano-rectal motility tests. During this aspect of a study, a tube in placed inside the rectum that has specially designed sensors in it. These sensors measure the amount of muscle contractions and action occurring during the act of defecation or during the straining someone may do during a bowel movement. Patients undergoing this study may be asked to squeeze their anus as tight as possible and then letting go for allowing the tube to read the restrictive movements of the rectum and anus. This aspect of rectum imaging studies helps doctors to learn whether the muscles are functioning properly in the rectum. A new imaging process is being used some for also learning more about abnormal defecation as well. The magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, defecography has been found to provide amazing images of the act of defecation and the muscles being used for doing so. However, the MRI poses issues for placing patients comfortably for this particular type of test. For this reason, only the medical facilities equipped for patient comfort and have a certain interest in defecation probelms are currently using this particular imaging diagnostics or constipation and issues surrounding it.
Colorful X-Ray Studies
Many people can benefit from a colonic transit marker diagnostic study. During this study, patients suffering with constipation are given capsules containing tiny, brightly colored pieces of plastic that are easily picked up on an X-ray. After the capsules are digested, the small pieces of plastic are easily visible inside the intestinal tract on an X-ray. This test helps doctor learn how fast or slow the colon is working to eliminate fecal waste. This test can also help doctors learn whether your problem has to do with pelvic floor dysfunction or colonic inertia as well. If the plastic pieces end up gathered in the rectum, you may be dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction. If the plastic pieces remain scattered throughout the colon, it could signify slow movement known as colonic inertia.
During a colonoscopy, a flexible tube is inserted into the rectum and taken all the way through the entire colon. The tube has sensors that measure muscle contractions taking place inside the colon. In the event measurements are off kilter, the muscles could be as well in the colon. The muscle contractions that occur in the colon are timed precisely for the movement of fecal matter out of the bowels. Health care professionals find this study to be an excellent choice for learning more about colonic inertia and severe constipation in patients.
Many medical professionals use a standard table referred to as the Rome II Criteria when diagnosing patients suffering with constipation. This table sets certain requirements patients must meet to be diagnosed with particular levels of constipation:
- ¼ or more of defecations must include straining
- ¼ of defecations should be hardened feces
- Patient may feel as though defecation is incomplete and this sensation must occur ¼ of the time during defecation
- ¼ of defecations cause sensations obstruction or blocking in the anus
- ¼ defecations include manual assistance for successful elimination
- Patients must have less than three defecations a week
- If there is not enough evidence to diagnosis irritable bowel syndrome, constipation is generally an acceptable conclusive diagnosis.
Treatment And Prevention Of Constipation
Preventing the discomfort of constipation is best. However, when the time comes you need relief from that discomfort, several options are available and most of them are effective and safe. With children, main sure they remain on a schedule for bathroom breaks is important to help prevent constipation. Taking your child to the potty early in the morning upon awakening and then again about a half an hour after meals is recommended.
The first treatment to administer for constipation is dietary changes. Increasing water and fiber intake is recommended before you start using laxatives and other treatments. Using laxative every time you feel constipated can cause your intestinal tract to become dependent on the medication for elimination to occur. You should only use a laxative in the event dietary changes have not helped. The severity and time period of constipation is considered before treatment is prescribed as:
- Nutritional and dietary changes
- Changes in activity levels
- Lifestyle adjustments
- Journal for keeping up with your food and beverage intake, biofeedback information
- Surgical intervention
- If you have used traditional treatments like increased exercise, dietary changes and medications and you are still experiencing constipation, a visit to your physician is a good idea.
- Home Remedies For Constipation
- Drink more water every day, up to four additional glasses than you normally drink. If you are fluid restricted, talk to your doctor about this remedy first
- Drinking warm liquids in the morning can be helpful
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables each day
- Add bran cereal or prunes to your daily diet
- Take a mild stool softener, but for no more than a couple of days
Nutritional And Dietary Facts Related To Constipation
Maintaining a well-balanced diet is essential for life and for good health. Adults should consume twenty to thirty five grams of fiber daily for the healthy functioning of the digestive tract. However, most people today do not consume that much fiber. In fact, many people eat processed foods that are not nutritious and take away from the number of nutrients necessary for proper bodily functioning. The person that has troubling bouts of constipation should avoid foods that are low in fiber and processed foods.
Important Information About Laxatives
Medications For Creating Intestinal Bulk
Many doctors recommend medications that are designed to build bulk in the intestinal tract for helping to stimulate bowel movements. Most of these medications are made to mix into water or juice for drinking. Once in the intestinal tract, however, bulk agents do absorb a great deal of water. In persons not drinking enough fluids, this could cause greater problems with constipation. While bulk forming medications are considered to be safe, they can cause dehydration in the intestinal tract. Be sure to drink plenty of water while taking these kinds of medications or you could suffer with worsening symptoms of bloating and painful abdominal cramping.
Osmotic laxatives promote the fluid retention in fecal matter. Osmotic medications can help to increase bowel activity and can also soften fecal matter. The person that is confined to a bed and cannot take other kinds of laxatives generally can benefit from osmotic laxatives. One note to remember: elderly people should be careful taking osmotic medications due to fast dehydration. People suffering with heart or kidney issues should avoid these medications due to the mineral imbalances they can cause.
When taking a stool softener, your feces become better mixed with water in your intestinal tract. Softer stools are easier to pass and can decrease the amount of straining during a bowel movement. Women that have just given birth or people that have had surgery can benefit from a stool softener to keep them from straining during a bowel movement.
Lubricants keep fecal matter in a protective coating that helps it to retain moisture. Without enough water in fecal matter, it becomes dry and hardened, thus creating constipation. Lubricants are easy to easy and low cost, making them a great choice for most people dealing with mild constipation. Mineral oil is also a great lubricant for occasional constipation as well. However, long term use of mineral oil is not advisable. Mineral oil used long term can create vitamin deficiencies because it prevents nutrient absorption in the intestinal tract. Persons that are unable to swallow well can mistakenly take mineral oil into their lungs and come down with lipid pneumonia. Mineral oil used for long term treatment of constipation can cause other medication to lose their effectiveness.
Magnesium hydroxide, sold as milk of magnesium, and polyethylene glycol are considered to be the safest, cheapest and most effective remedies for occasional constipation. Drugs like lubiprostone and prucalopride are relatively new and considered good for chronic constipation symptoms.
Eating a diet high in fiber is best to prevent the occurrence of constipation. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of natural dietary fiber. It is recommended you eat five servings of vegetables and fruits every day. However, in the case of people that dietary fiber does not help decrease the occurrence of constipation, choosing to take supplements is a good idea and safe as well.
The definition of fiber is plant material that is not digestible by the human body. Fiber is used in many traditional treatments for constipation and helps to give fecal matter form. In the intestinal tract, fiber attaches to water, keeping it within fecal matter for easier elimination.
Many sources of fiber are available and some are common:
- Oats (in bran) and wheat
- Metamucil (psyllium seed)
- Citrucel (synthetic methyl cellulose)
- Equilactin (polycarbophil)
- Combinations of polycarbophil and calcium
- Maltsupex, malt extract that works to soften stool
When you start eating more fiber, you may also notice you have more gas. Flatulence comes with the intake of more fiber because it is a little more work for the bacteria in the intestinal tract to digest it. The gas is created as a byproduct as bacterium work to complete the digestion of fiber. However, you can eat some fibers in moderate amounts and not experience flatulence to the point it becomes a problem. Every type of fiber will cause some level of flatulence, but you can eat some that will not cause it to be an issue. Try a particular vegetable or fruit for a few weeks and see how much gas you end up having. Increasing your fiber intake through trial and error could be helpful for finding the source of fiber that will not cause you troublesome flatulence while also providing the dietary fiber necessary for preventing constipation.
Fiber supplements can also create gas for the same reasons as fiber in fruits and vegetables. Try taking a supplement in its lowest dose and increase it gradually until you find gas is bothersome. This would be the level you could take for controlling constipation without increasing the gas in your intestinal tract. If you find that even low doses cause tremendous gas, you should consider choosing another supplement altogether.
People that have strictures, narrowing in their intestines or those people that have scar tissue build up from surgery should be sure to discuss taking any type of bulk laxative with their doctor before doing so. Diabetics should also make sure the source of fiber they choose is sugar free as well.
Stool Softening Emollients
Stool softeners, also called emollients, help ease constipation by increasing water retention in the intestinal tract. Most stool softeners contain docusate, a special wetting compound that improves water penetration in the colon. Stool softeners are a good choice for the long term treatment of constipation. You should keep in mind that it could take some stool softeners a couple of weeks to start working effectively. You can increase the dosage if you do not see results in a few weeks.
Docusate And Mineral Oil
Taking stool softeners that contain docusate and taking mineral oil is not recommended. Docusates promotes mineral oil absorption in the intestinal tract. When mineral oil goes back into your system, it settles in the lymph nodes and other tissues. Mineral oil has also been known to collect in the liver as well. Mineral oil collection in these parts of the body creates inflammation. While medical professionals are not sure about the results this type of inflammation can have, it is best to avoid it.
Emollient type laxatives should not be taken with some prescription medications due to the same promotion of intestinal absorption. Emollients should only be used for the temporary relief of mild to moderate constipation. People recovering from surgery or those people dealing with painful hemorrhoids or anal fissures can benefit a great deal from emollients.
Polyethylene glycol, lactulose and sorbitol are examples of hyperosmolar type laxatives. These kinds of laxatives stay in the colon and keep the water in that is already present. These laxatives are not absorbable nor are they digestible. However, you can only get these types of laxatives for your health care provider with a prescription. Hyperosmolar laxatives have proven to be safe for using long term and do not carry harmful or harsh side effects. However, some patients have reported more gas when taking hyperosmolar laxatives. Gas can be decreased by reducing the dose you are taking.
Laxatives Containing Saline
Magnesium, phosphate, citrate and sulfate all contain ions that not absorbable in water. Saline laxatives stay in the colon and attract water, thus promoting stool softening. However, magnesium can produce some stimulating impact on the muscles in the colon. Magnesium in laxatives has also been found to find its back through the intestinal walls as well, leaving it to be taken care of by the kidneys. For this reason, patients experiencing kidney problems should avoid laxatives that contain magnesium. Saline laxatives do provide fast relief of constipation and can act in a couple of hours after taking it. However, if you endure severe diarrhea, you should make sure to replace your fluids to avoid dehydration through the fast loss of intestinal fluids. Milk of magnesium is the gentlest saline laxative while Epsom salt is one of the strongest.
Laxatives Containing Stimulants
Laxatives that contain stimulants help the colon to eliminate fecal matter through the stimulation of the colon muscles. Stimulant laxatives increase the amount of water in fecal matter as well. Increased fluid in fecal matter occurs by the reduction of water in the colon and promoting water secretion in the small intestine.
Most people find stimulant laxatives effective and fast acting. The downside to stimulating laxatives is the effect they have on the intestinal tract. Also, stimulating laxatives cause side effects like painful abdominal cramping and diarrhea that can cause dehydration. Researchers and medical professionals agree that stimulating laxatives may cause damage to the nerves and muscles in the colon. Stimulating laxatives are not recommended or long term use and if you can find relief using a non-stimulating laxative, you would be making a safer, healthier choice. You should also know that prunes are also considered to be a mild stimulating laxative as well.
Learning More About Enemas
Enemas can provide fast, effective relief for constipation and in some cases is an excellent treatment for fecal impaction as well. Several kinds of enemas are available, some using only tap water for complete relief. However, overusing enemas can cause electrolyte and fluid imbalances that could be harmful to your health. Enemas work by stimulating the colon muscles. Some enemas are considered as emollient agents and work to soften fecal matter while others contain saline and help to attract water to the colon.
When using an enema, following the instructions that come with it is extremely important. Once you have inserted the enema and filled your rectum with its contents, you need to hold it in until you begin to feel cramping sensations. Once you feel cramping, it is time to use the restroom. Most enemas work within an hour of using them. If you have thought of using a soapsuds enema, you should not. Soapsuds enemas can cause serious damage to your rectal area.
Suppositories are similar to enemas in they have several kinds available. Some suppositories are stimulants while some are not. Glycerin suppositories have been thought to cause a low level of irritation to the inside of the rectal area, causing stimulation moves the bowels. Inserting a finger in your rectum can also stimulate your bowels to move as well.
Laxatives Containing A Combination Of Ingredients
Some laxatives contain more than one ingredient for providing fast relief of constipation. Some contain bulk fiber and emollient laxatives in one product. However, many combination products also contain up to three stimulating laxatives. These kinds of products should only be used in the event you have tried all other traditional treatments without finding relief.
Manual Techniques For The Relief Of Constipation
The removal of fecal impaction using the hands is called manual disimpaction. When constipation does not respond to traditional treatments, many people must have fecal waste manually removed to prevent the condition from worsening. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule can help to reduce the occurrence of chronic constipation as well.
Safe Laxatives For Children
When it comes to the laxative you trust for your child, choosing osmotic over stimulating laxatives is important. Polyethylene has been found to work best in children over other products.
For some people experiencing severe constipation, the last option for treatment could be surgery. Anorectal prolapse or the removal of parts of the colon may be necessary. People undergoing the surgical removal of their colon usually are experiencing the loss of muscle function in their colon, rendering it basically useless. Discussing with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of surgery is extremely important.
Prescription Drugs For Constipation
When the drug tegaserod was introduced in 2002, it was done so primarily for women suffering with IBS. Tegaserod was formulated for relieving constipation and abdominal pain. However, it was pulled by the FDA until it was proven not to be the cause of heart attack and stroke in some patients. After clinical trials, researchers and scientists were still not sure about whether or not this drug was the actual culprit of heart attack and stroke.
How tegaserod works is unique and unlike many other medications that target the symptoms of constipation. In the intestines, muscle contractions is the reason fecal matter moves. Serotonin is a brain chemical that control these muscle contractions. People experiencing constipation also experience slow muscle contractions in the intestines. If the muscles contractions are sped up, the movement of fecal matter will be as well. Serotonin receptors are present in the intestines. Some receptors are for increasing contractions while others are for decreasing them. Tegaserod works to relieve abdominal pain and constipation by blocking the attachment of serotonin to receptors that slow contractions. As a result, contractions are faster, thus helping to move fecal matter through the complete elimination process. Tegaserod was found to be effective for constipation in research studies and trials, producing only diarrhea as a side effect. In most patients, diarrhea subsided in a few days after taking the medication.
Approved by the FDA in 2006, lubiprostone works to relieve constipation through stool softening. Lubiprostone is considered to be a chloride channel activator that stimulates the intestinal secretion of chloride ions. Studies showed that lubiprostone made a significant difference in patients suffering with constipation. However, more research is needed for determining side effects and long term effects of lubiprostone.
Working to stimulate fluid secretion in the intestinal tract, linaclotide helps to decrease the abdominal pain associated with constipation. Studies showed an improvement in patients suffering with constipation through increased bowel movements. The pain relief provided by this drug may be simply from the act of a bowel movement providing relief. However, researchers are considering its effects on the nerves in the intestinal tract as the reason for pain relief. Children between the ages of six and seventeen should not be given linaclotide due to toxic side effects. Side effects for adults include diarrhea that goes away after continued use.
Other Drugs Being Used For The Symptoms Of Constipation
Many medications given for various diseases and conditions carry diarrhea as a side effect. Some studies are being done to learn more about these drugs and if they can be useful in the treatment of constipation due to their side of effects of loosened stools.
Colchicine: Used for many years for the treatment of gout, a form of arthritis, colchicine has been reported by patients taking to cause loose stools as a side effect. When given to patients that were not suffering with gout, colchicine also worked to relieve constipation.
Cytotec (Misoprostol): Cytotec is used in the prevention of gastrointestinal issues caused by medications like NSAIDS. NSAIDS like ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers with long term use, so cytotec is used to help prevent them from occurring. Patients taking this medication found it causes diarrhea as a side effect. Studies are being done to determine if this drug would be a useful treatment for constipation. However, it is costly and researchers wonder about its safety being used long term.
Xenical (Orlistat): Generally given to patients as a weight loss aid, orlistat has also been reported to induce intestinal muscle contraction by blocking fat from digestion. As fat moves through the intestinal tract undigested, it causes a reaction of stimulation in the intestines and a secretion of water from cells in the intestinal walls, thus also causing bowel movements. The great news about orlistat is it carries few side effects.
No one is sure as of yet whether these drugs will be prescribed specifically for constipation. However, for those patients suffering with conditions like gout or obesity that are also dealing with constipation, these drugs could be a great treatment.
Non-Medicinal Treatments For Constipation
Ano-Rectal Biofeedback Training
Through biofeedback training, patients can learn how to better control the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that control the anus and the rectum. Training is done by using the readings from a catheter that is placed into the rectum. Sensors on the catheter record data, sending it to a screen so patients can see it. The muscle contraction pressures that are recorded as patients use the anal and rectal muscles can help patients modify the relaxation and contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.
The person that does not get around much and lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to experience constipation than the person that is active. While it is obvious that movement seems to promote healthier bowel movements, studies have shown that physical activity does not affect constipation in any way. However, exercising is good for many aspects of good health and should always be included in your weekly routine.
What About Surgery?
Persons dealing with colon diseases are candidates for surgery that involves the removal of the colon. In most cases, the entire colon, with the exception of the rectum and/or the sigmoid colon, is removed. Patients being considered for this surgery will need to undergo motility tests for their small intestine to make sure it is healthy and not experiencing issues. The reason for small intestine motility tests is the small intestine is attached to the rectum after the colon is taken out.
Using Electrical Impulses
The technique and treatment using electrodes placed in the walls of the colon is still being studied and remains in an experimental stage. Called electrical pacing, the electrodes are attached to exterior stimulators. The stimulation to the sacral skin is thought to help increase muscle contractions and promote healthier, easier bowel movements. Much research still surrounds this method of therapy before it can be considered a viable for treating constipation.
Putting off going to restroom when you need to is one way to set yourself up to be constipated. When you have the urge to have a bowel movement, going right then is important to prevent fecal matter from becoming backed up and hardened. Taking the time for complete bowel evacuation is important to you remaining healthy.
Caregivers need to be aware of the importance of healthy bowel movements for the people they look after. Many families care for elderly or sick family member that are unable to walk. Persons that are bedridden should be given the opportunity to have a bowel movement on a regular basis to prevent painful constipation. Be sure to never rush someone and to give them their privacy during restroom visits. This is also true for patients using bed pans. Gastrocolic reflex helps the bowels move and does so better when someone is on a schedule. Taking your patient or loved one to the restroom in the morning and about a half an hour after meals is best for bowel movements to take place successfully.
The position you sit on a toilet can make a big difference in the bowel movements you have. Placing a small stool under your feet can help make it easier to pass feces. Resting your elbows on your thighs and relaxing can help a lot as well. Avoid straining or holding your breath when trying to have a bowel movement.
Drinking Water For Overall Good health
Drinking plenty of water every day can help to increase your overall health. Hydration of the body is essential and is especially so for the intestinal tract. Without enough water in the intestines, the bowels cannot function properly and stools become hardened and backed up.
Sesame seeds can help make having bowel movements easier because of the roughage they provide the intestinal tract. When choosing sesame seeds, remember not eat more than half an ounce daily. Many people sprinkle these seeds on salads or use them in dips like tahini.
Grape Tincture And Coffee
Foods and beverages that taste bitter can help to stimulate the digestive system. Coffee is especially great at this kind of stimulation. For those people that do not care for coffee, Oregon grape tincture can work just as well. Oregon grape root has been used for many years as a treatment for constipation. Mix one half teaspoon of grape tincture into a glass of water. Drink the mix slowly before you eat a meal for best results.
An Assortment Of Beans
Legumes, dried beans, are well known for being an excellent fiber source. While many people do not like to beans because of the gas they case, you should know you can cook them in such a way to reduce the gas side effect. Some people claim that adding a half of teaspoon of baking soda to beans while they are cooking can help to reduce the gassiness effects they produce. Eating beans on a regular basis can also help your digestive tract to become used to the amount of fiber they provide, thus also helping to lower the incident of gas you experience after eating them.
Avoiding Refined Foods is Smart
Eating more whole grain cereals and foods that are not processed can do a lot for your total health in addition to improving your digestion and bowel movements. Cooking fresh vegetables until they tender instead of mushy helps to provide more fiber and nutrients. Whole grain products instead of those made with white flour are a better choice because of the high fiber content they provide.
Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are probiotic organisms found in sour milk products and in yogurt. The balance of bacterial flora in the intestinal tract benefits a great deal from these probiotics. Adding honey or almonds to yogurt can add even more great benefits for the intestinal tract. You can learn more about the probiotics that would be best for you by talking to your physician about them.
The Benefits of Linseed
Linseed comes from the seeds of the flax plant. The seeds of the flax plant contain high amounts of finer and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed has been found to have properties that can also help to relieve constipation as well. Soaking a few seeds in a cup of water for a few hours for drinking before bedtime can help you see a remarkable improvement in your bowel movements.
Figs Can Provide Constipation Relief
Figs contain high levels of calcium and fibers, making them an excellent choice for fruits that help prevent constipation. Person suffering with chronic constipation can benefit greatly by adding fresh or dried figs to their diet each day. Some people boil figs in water and drink it before going to bed at night for experiencing relief by the next morning.
Grapes contain acids, sugars and cellulose. These ingredeints work together as a remedy for constipation when you eat grapes on a regular basis. Eating fresh grapes or drinking grape juice once daily can do a lot to help reduce your discomfort from constipation. Eating raisins that have been soaked in water for a couple of days can provide the same benefits. Drinking the water the raisins were soaked in in the mornings is helpful to ease constipation also.
Herbal Remedies For Constipation
Althaea officinalis, commonly referred to as the marshmallow plant, has been used for centuries as a remedy for several ailments including constipation. Asparagine, starch, pectin and mucilage contained in this plant can provide several health benefits and help to ease the discomfort of constipation. For constipation, the root of the marshmallow plant is need along with licorice, in two equal parts. Boil both parts inside a sachet in water. Drink this mixture in the mornings for helping to control constipation symptoms.
Also called the dragon plant, arum has been reported to be one the best and most strong herbal remedies for constipation. Generally, this herbal remedy is given in powder form derived from the root. However, great care should be taken with the berries from the dragon plant because it does contain aroini, a substance that is poisonous when the plant is green. Referring to an experienced herbalist about this remedy is wise if you are unsure about its proper preparation. The berries of the dragon plant are toxic and should be kept out of the reach of children.
Pears are delicious and they are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants that are great for helping to combat disease. Eating ripened pears in between the two largest meals of the day can help to relieve constipation. Bear in mind that eating unripe pears can cause constipation, so make sure the fruits you choose are ripe.
Artichokes Provide Special Protection
Some botanists claim the artichoke provides protection for the gastrointestinal tract. Many people say that eating a couple of artichokes with red or black pepper each day can also help to relieve constipation and maintain regularity. Other reports state that eating boiled artichokes along with drinking white wine can help constipation as well.
Creeping Cedar (Lycopodium)
Herbalists suggest using lycopodium tea as a remedy for constipation. Add a teaspoon of lycopodium to about a liter of boiled water. Seal tightly and leave for a few hours. Strain into another container before drinking. Drinking one cup before breakfast is recommended. Be sure to take this remedy on an empty stomach.
Alexandrian Henna (Cassia)
Cassia has been used for as a remedy for constipation since the Middle Ages. Cassia contains sennosides A and B, the reason it provides great relief for the symptoms of constipation. Cassia is used for the treatment of severe constipation as well. However, prolonged, long term used of this herb can cause your intestinal tract to become dependent on it for bowel movements to take place. For this reason, avoid using long term for issues like chronic constipation and IBS.
Medicinal Benefits Of Cabbage
During Roman times, cabbage was considered the medicine for the poor. Cabbage contains vitamins A, B, C Potassium, calcium, sulfur, phosphorous, manganese and sodium. Cabbage, whether eaten raw of cooked, is a great remedy for constipation. Unfortunately, not many people today realize the amazing health benefits cabbage has to offer.
Citrus fruits like oranges provide high levels of antioxidants that help to strengthen your immune system. Oranges provide fiber as well that can help with constipation and maintain regular bowel movements. Using the orange peel can be especially beneficial for combating constipation. In addition to high levels of vitamin C, oranges also contain vitamins A and D, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium. Many herbalists use the essential oil taken from orange peels as a remedy for bronchitis and insomnia.
Leeks have been used since the ancient Egyptian times, as far back as 3200 BC, for the relief of intestinal parasites and constipation. Some nutritional experts claim that eating leeks every day for a few days can help stop diarrhea as well.
Melons like cantaloupe and honeydew contain high amounts of fiber and can help to relieve constipation. Melons also contain vitamins A, B1, B2, E and C. Vitamins C and E are strong antioxidants that can strengthen the immune system.
Tomatoes Provide Great Health Benefits
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an especially beneficial carotenoid and phytochemical that is thought to help combat cancer, macular degeneration and heart disease. Tomatoes have also been found to be an effective fruit for constipation as well. Tomatoes are high in ascorbic acid as well, more commonly called vitamin C, making it also beneficial for providing antioxidants. You can benefit from fresh tomatoes and tomatoes juice as well.
Spinach has been found to be an excellent remedy for constipation and for overall health, containing calcium, vitamins A, B, C and D, potassium and iron. The greatest benefit of eating spinach is you get the results of a laxative without the effects of pharmaceutical laxatives. One old and trusted remedy includes eating spinach and apples for a couple of days to relieve constipation. Some nutritional experts recommend drinking spinach juice, two cups a day, for boosting your health and keeping constipation at bay.
Apples And Their Health Benefits
The old adage that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is truer than you may know. Apples are filled with health boosting nutrients: Acids, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Apples have been found to provide relief for constipation and intestinal issues. In fact, many mothers give their babies warm apple juice in times of colic and constipation for producing a bowel movement.
Alternative Medicine And Therapies
Even some of the most severe cases of constipation can be simply treated and relieved through basic lifestyle, dietary and habit changes. Many alternative treatments have been examined closely at their benefits for constipation and other digestive disorders.
Massage therapy has been used in several cultures for centuries as a form of pain and stress relieving therapy. Massaging the skin, muscles and joints can help to ease tension and soothe pain. Some massage techniques like shiatsu and acupressure have been fine tuned to provide soothing therapy. Massaging the abdominal area helps to relax muscles and promotes a healthy intestinal tract and bladder in addition to promoting activity in the bowels.
Acupuncture originated in ancient Chinese medical practices and is still used today for a variety of ailments. Acupuncture works by realigning the line of energy, the qi, in the body. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles in the areas that will help to realign the qi. In the case of constipation and colon issues, acupuncturist state the realignment of qi provides a healthy dose of stimulation to the colon, thus promoting bowel movement and relief from discomfort.
Homeopathy and Constipation
Homeopathic medical treatments are individualized or each patient. In homeopathy treatments, ailments are approached in a natural manner that generally promotes the body’s own healing abilities. Most treatments include plant derived herbal remedies. Keep in mind that even though homeopathic remedies are all natural, they can still cause side effects, especially when mixed with other medications. Discuss any treatment or remedy you may be considering with your health care provider before attempting to use it.
Because every person is different, homeopathic practitioners always determine a person’s constitutional type before administering any therapy or remedy. Practitioners will learn more about your being, physically, psychologically and emotionally, before choosing the best remedy and/or therapy for your ailment.
This remedy is most suitable for people that are experiencing constipation without any urges for a bowel movement. It is also good for children that seem to feel better while being constipated than when having bowel movements on a regular schedule. Persons that can benefit from calcarea carbonica are usually overweight, experience heartburn, do not have much energy and their belches have a foul, sour smell. These people may also experience strange cravings as well. These kinds of cravings are called pica and can be for things like dirt, chalk and clay. Most people that are good candidates for this remedy also have sensitivity to milk as well.
Nux vomica is best for people experiencing constipation that causes the urge to have a bowel movement to be constant. However, when the person visits the restroom, nothing happens despite the constant urge to go. This remedy is good for constipation caused by alcohol or drug use and eating too much and for people that have sensitivity to noises, lights and smells.
Silica is a remedy best for individuals that do not like cold weather or temperatures, but do enjoy colder food choices and beverages. This remedy can also benefit the child that is fearful of going to the restroom. Silica works well for people that feel fecal matter still in the rectum after a bowel movement.
Bryonia is a good remedy for persons that seem to be fussy and prefer open rooms with cool, fresh air moving through them. Best for the treatment of constipation accompanied with hardened, dried out feces. Individuals that can benefit from bryonia may endure severe headaches in the temple areas that get worse with movement.
The person experiencing constipation that causes stool to be small and hard can benefit from lycopodium. The same person may also experience bloating and gas after eating meals. The individual that does not like to be alone, especially children, and experience greater, more intense symptoms after the noon hour toward evening can benefit from this remedy.
Benefits Of Accupressure
The arch of the foot has reflex pressure points for the digestive that can affect constipation. By applying cyclical pressure to these points for about two minutes, you can help to ease your discomfort. Applying pressure as well on the inner side of the heel and under the ankle area can help as well.
Natural Home Remedies For Constipation
Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony)
Soak agrimony root in water for a good while and then strain it. Drink the water every day until symptoms of constipation have diminished. Some herbalists recommend boiling the root and leaves until it mixture becomes thick before straining and drinking the water.
Placing one teaspoon dry basil into one cup of boiling water and covering will produce a tea mixture that is beneficial for constipation. Allow basil to remain in water, covered, for about fifteen minutes before straining and drinking. This remedy is said to work best after a meal that was eaten slowly.
Eating about twenty grams of elder berries in the mornings before breakfast can help to stop constipation. Many people enjoy putting the berries through a sieve and drinking the juice as well.
Some herbalists claim that boiling around forty grams of willow bark in water can create a great remedy for constipation. Strain the bark after boiling and store in cool place. Drink a glass of willow bark tea each night after your evening meal.
For a great remedy that fights the discomfort of constipation and diarrhea, try boiling a couple of handfuls of chestnut leaves in water about fifteen minutes. Drinking a couple of glasses of the chestnut leaves tea for half a day can provide relief for digestive issues like constipation.
Boiling corn hair in water for about fifteen or so minutes and drinking the water produced from it each morning can help to relief and prevent constipation. Continuing this remedy daily has been said to help prevent kidneys experiencing over activity.
Making sure you eat enough roughage I your diet is essential or healthy bowel movements. Lettuce is an excellent source of roughage and can be eaten every day. You can also boil dried lettuce leaves in water for creating a tea like infusion that is great for relieving constipation.
Drinking fresh squeezed orange juice mixed with warm water and one tablespoon of honey can provide relief for constipation.
Consuming nuts, about one quarter of a cup, daily with goji fruit berries can help to prevent constipation.
Oil can provide temporary relief for constipation. However, do not use this remedy on a daily basis for chronic constipation. Adding safflower or soybean oils to salads can provide great benefits for healthy digestive processes. taking a couple of teaspoons of vegetable a day until you get relief from constipation can helps a great deal by coating the intestinal oils, making easier passage for stools. Remember to cut out other calories from your diet on the day you take oil for constipation so you do not overdo the calories from fat in one day.
Molasses And Honey
Blackstrap molasses can provide overnight relief for constipation. Taking a couple of tablespoons before going to sleep at night can help to promote bowel movements. Due to molasses being high in calories, it may not be wise to use this remedy every day for preventing constipation. Some people find that blackstrap molasses is too strong to take alone. You can mix it with juices or milk to make it easier to get down. Adding blackstrap molasses to prune juice can provide extreme laxative benefits.
Not only does it taste great, honey also can help ease mild bouts of constipation as well. Swallowing down a tablespoon of honey three times daily can help to ease discomfort. You can also mix it into warm water or blackstrap molasses for even greater benefits. Adding a teaspoon of honey to a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can also help to relief the pain and discomfort of constipation. Also, limit this remedy as well due to being high in calories.
Soak the leaves of cassia angustifolia (synamikis) in warm water for about five hours. Drinking a cup of this tea while it is lukewarm before going to sleep at night can help to relieve constipation.
Place three grams of rhubarb root in a cup of hot water. Cover it and let it soak for five hours. Drink a cup while it is warm before retiring to bed at night.
Peach blossoms have a wonderful, calming effect on children and are an excellent remedy for light constipation. Soaking about twenty grams of peach blossoms in two cups of water produces a tea that is safe for children adults. Adding a little sugar to children’s drinks is recommended for improving taste. Dry out peach blossoms on plates in the sunlight and store in airtight, glass jars.
Cloves And Sage
Drinking a mix of boiled sage and cloves once in the morning and once at night, after a meal, can help to relieve constipation. Adding sugar can help to improve the taste. Make this tea using fifteen grams of cloves and three cups of water. Using only a couple of sage leaves is necessary for being able to strain after boiling.
Make an infusion by soaking fifteen grams of raspberry leaf in two cups hot water. Drink this mix once in the mornings and once in the late evening.
Boil ten and point eight grams of berberis root in water and drink it in the mornings. This remedy has been found to be highly effective for constipation.
Alder Buckthorn (Ramnus frangula)
Boiling a cup of water and twenty grams of dry Ramnus frangula bark produces an effective remedy for constipation. Drinking a glass of this mix in the mornings is best. Never use this bark in green form. Always make sure it is completely dried out before using due to the toxic effects it can have on the body. If you feel uncomfortable preparing your own remedy, finding an experience herbalist is a good idea for learning more.
Onions are great for constipation when cooked in oil with tomatoes. Adding onions to a salad can provide fiber and roughage that is beneficial for constipation as well. This vegetable is great for children dealing with constipation. Onions have been found to be a blood purifier as well.
Plandago Psyllium (Psyllium)
Psyllium seeds can provide high levels of fiber and help to prevent constipation. Psyllium seeds are not addicting and are safe for pregnant women as well.
While it is not for long term use, aloe vera juice is great for temporary relief of constipation. Aloe vera juice is also high in nutritious content and is considered to be body detoxifier.
Chamomile is a soothing ingredient that can provide relief for constipation by mixing it with a teaspoon of honey. Good for the pain associated with mild constipation.
Learning More About The Evaluation And Treatment Of Constipation
Medical professionals learn more about you and your symptoms before making a call about the severity of constipation. While a mild case can be irritating, more severe cases can be life threatening. Using a set of standard type principles, your physician can tell a great deal about the type of constipation you may be suffering from.
Distinguishing between cases of acute or chronic constipation is important. Acute means a fast onset and chronic means an ongoing problem. Acute cases of constipation can be a sign of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Starting treatment as early as possible and choosing the treatments that pose the least side effects is important. Taking this step can help to prevent worsening symptoms and prevents colon damage caused by overuse of laxatives.
Determining when a case of constipation is chronic is also important for proper treatment. Finding a treatment for chronic symptoms is usually done after traditional treatments have not worked.
Medical professionals work towards the goal of patients having a bowel movement (without straining or other kinds of issues) at least every two or three days when constipation treatment is administered.
Tips For Preventing Constipation
- Avoid putting off the urge to have a bowel movement
- Talk to your physician about any medications you are currently taking and learn if any of them can cause constipation
- Eat more fruits and vegetables for increasing the level of fiber in your diet
- If you cannot eat enough fiber to make a difference in constipation, taking a fiber supplement in a good idea
- Star out with small amounts of fiber and work your way up to an amount that provides relief from constipation
- Remember that fiber does take a few weeks to make a difference
If you still have troubling constipation after following these tips, trying a laxative is acceptable. However, avoid becoming dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement. If you continue to have symptoms of constipation after using a laxative, you should discuss other treatment options with your doctor. Do not start using too many stimulating laxatives long term due to the serious damage they can cause to the colon.
Hyper-osmolar laxatives are the best choice for mild constipation that is not chronic. Starting with a small dose and working your way up is also recommended for these kinds of laxatives. Talk to your doctor about the best way for you to use these laxatives. You might also consider keeping a bottle of milk of magnesium, a saline laxative, on hand for the occasional bout of constipation. You can alter the dosage of milk of magnesium so that is acts as only a stool softener as well.
While prunes and prunes juice do have a mild stimulating effect on the colon, there have been no reports about prunes causing colon damage. Prunes have been used for many years as a remedy for constipation.
Lots of people feel safer taking herbal remedies due to them being all natural. However, many natural, herbal laxatives are stimulants that can damage the colon if used on a long term basis. For this reason, discussing any herbal treatment you would like to try with your doctor is important before doing so.
When The Time Comes To Seek Medical Treatment For Constipation
When you have trouble pushing stool out during a bowel movement, you should seek medical attention. If you have tried traditional treatments and remain constipated, talking to your doctor about being referred to a gastroenterologist is best. Your constipation could be caused from a medical problem like pelvic floor dysfunction or tumors in the colon, so making sure of the cause is important.
Contact your health care provider if:
- You are experiencing the onset of constipation for the first time
- You find blood in your bowel movements
- You experience sudden weight loss for no apparent reason
- You have pain during a bowel movement
- You have been experiencing the symptoms of constipation for longer than two weeks
In many cases, constipation can cause other issues that will require additional treatment. Some problems that can be caused by constipation include rectal prolapse, hemorrhoids, fecal impaction and anal fissures.
If you see blood in your stool and experience pain while having a bowel movement in the area of the anus, you could be suffering with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are veins in the anal region that have become inflamed and swollen. Straining during a bowel movement can cause the eruption of hemorrhoids. If you use over the counter or home remedies for hemorrhoids and they do not work, contacting your physician about further treatment is a good idea.
Straining when you have a bowel movement can also cause rectal prolapse. Rectal prolapse cause a mucus leakage to occur from the anus. Usually, stopping straining or hard coughing is all that is needed for treatment. However, if a rectal prolapse incident is severe your physician may choose surgery for treatment.
Itching, bleeding and pain in the anus can be from anal fissures. Your doctor may ask you to make changes in your diet for helping to avoid constipation. Warm baths and numbing creams are good choices for relieving the pain caused by anal fissures.
The intestinal tract that has become dependent on laxatives for having a bowel movement is referred to as a lazy bowel. Lazy bowel syndrome causes other issues like troubling nutrient absorption and intestinal damage.
Usually occurring in older adults and in children, fecal impaction can be painful and cause serious problems if left untreated. Fecal impaction happens when the fecal matter become too hard to pas and creates a blockage that does not allow any stool to be eliminated. In many cases, a fecal impaction has to be removed manually. Some people respond to mineral oil ingestion or an enema for fecal impaction.