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Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times a week.
People who are constipated may find it difficult and painful to have a bowel movement.
Other symptoms of constipation include feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish.

At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated.
Poor diet and lack of exercise are usually the causes. In most cases, constipation is temporary and not serious.
Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief.

Who gets Constipated?
According to the 1996 National Health Interview Survey, about 3 million people in the United States have frequent constipation.
Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults age 65 and over.
Pregnant women may have constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the United States, resulting in about 2 million doctor visits annually.
However, most people treat themselves without seeking medical help, as is evident from the millions of dollars Americans spend on laxatives each year.

To understand constipation, it helps to know how the colon (large intestine) works. As food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming waste products, or stool.
Muscle contractions in the colon push the stool toward the rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed.

Common causes of constipation are
• not enough fiber in the diet
• not enough liquids
• lack of exercise
• medications
• irritable bowel syndrome
• changes in life or routine
• abuse of laxatives
• ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
• problems with the colon and rectum
• problems with intestinal function

The most common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and high in fats found in cheese, eggs, and meats.
People who eat plenty of high-fiber foods are less likely to become constipated.
Fiber--both soluble and insoluble--is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that the body cannot digest.
Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines.
Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines almost unchanged.
The bulk and soft texture of fiber help prevent hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans eat an average of 5 to 14 grams of fiber daily, 20 to 35 grams recommended by the American Dietetic Association.
Both children and adults eat too many refined and processed foods from which the natural fiber has been removed.
A low-fiber diet also plays a key role in constipation among older adults, who choose convenience foods low in fiber.
In addition, difficulties with chewing or swallowing may force older people to eat soft foods that are processed and low in fiber.

Liquids like water and juice add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass.
People who have problems with constipation should drink enough of these liquids every day, about eight 8-ounce glasses.
Liquids that contain caffeine, like coffee and cola drinks, and alcohol have a dehydrating effect.

Lack of exercise can lead to constipation, although doctors do not know precisely why.
For example, constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness when one must stay in bed and cannot exercise.

Some medications can cause constipation.
They include
• pain medications (especially narcotics)
• antacids that contain aluminum and calcium
• blood pressure medications
• antiparkinson drugs
• antispasmodics
• antidepressants
• iron supplements
• diuretics
• anticonvulsants

Some people with IBS, also known as spastic colon, have spasms in the colon that affect bowel movements.
Constipation and diarrhea often alternate, and abdominal cramping, gassiness, and bloating are other common complaints.
Although IBS can produce lifelong symptoms, it is not a life-threatening condition.
It often worsens with stress, but there is no specific cause or anything unusual that the doctor can see in the colon.

During pregnancy, women may be constipated because of hormonal changes or because the heavy uterus compresses the intestine.
Aging may also affect bowel regularity because a slower metabolism results in less intestinal activity and muscle tone.
In addition, people often become constipated when traveling because their normal diet and daily routines are disrupted.

Myths about constipation have led to a serious abuse of laxatives.
This is common among people who are preoccupied with having a daily bowel movement.
Laxatives usually are not necessary and can be habit-forming.
The colon begins to rely on laxatives to bring on bowel movements.
Over time, laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon and interfere with the colon's natural ability to contract.
For the same reason, regular use of enemas can also lead to a loss of normal bowel function.

People who ignore the urge to have a bowel movement may eventually stop feeling the urge, which can lead to constipation.
Some people delay having a bowel movement because they do not want to use toilets outside the home.
Others ignore the urge because of emotional stress or because they are too busy.
Children may postpone having a bowel movement because of stressful toilet training or because they do not want to interrupt their play.

Diseases that cause constipation include neurological disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, and systemic conditions that affect organ systems.
These disorders can slow the movement of stool through the colon, rectum, or anus.

Several kinds of diseases can cause constipation:
• multiple sclerosis
• Parkinson's disease
• chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
• stroke
• spinal cord injuries
Causes of Constipation: Metabolic and endocrine conditions
• diabetes
• underactive or overactive thyroid gland

Intestinal obstruction, scar tissue (adhesions), diverticulosis, tumors, colorectal stricture, Hirschsprung's disease,
or cancer can compress, squeeze, or narrow the intestine and rectum and cause constipation.

Some people have chronic constipation that does not respond to standard treatment.
This rare condition, known as idiopathic (of unknown origin) chronic constipation may be related to problems with intestinal function
such as problems with hormonal control or with nerves and muscles in the colon, rectum, or anus.
Functional constipation occurs in both children and adults and is most common in women.
Colonic inertia and delayed transit are two types of functional constipation caused by decreased muscle activity in the colon.
These syndromes may affect the entire colon or may be confined to the lower or sigmoid colon.

Additional Constipation Information
Chronic Constipation
Chronic constipation, in fact, has many causes. The cause of your constipation may be a poor diet, lack of exercise, and water, or something more serious.

If you're like many Americans, chronic constipation is something you've experienced. Over 4 million people each year report being constipated.
To understand why you may be suffering, you first need to know exactly what constipation means.
In order to be diagnosed with chronic constipation, you must have at least two of the following symptoms for at least 12 months:
• Hard or pellet-like stools at least 25% of the time
• Straining with bowel movements at least 25% of the time
• A feeling that you don't completely empty your bowels at least 25% of the time
• Fewer than 3 bowel movements per week
• Fewer than 2 bowel movements per week with no other symptoms

Constipation Treatment

Although treatment depends on the cause, severity, and duration,
in most cases dietary and lifestyle changes will help relieve symptoms of constipation and help prevent it.

Constipation Treatment: Diet
A diet with enough fiber (20 to 35 grams each day) helps form soft, bulky stool. A doctor or dietitian can help plan an appropriate diet.
High-fiber foods include beans, whole grains and bran cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrots.
For people prone to constipation, limiting foods that have little or no fiber, such as ice cream, cheese, meat, and processed foods, is also important.

Constipation Treatment: Lifestyle Changes
Other changes that can help treat and prevent constipation include drinking enough water
and other liquids such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups, engaging in daily exercise,
and reserving enough time to have a bowel movement. In addition, the urge to have a bowel movement should not be ignored.

Other Constipation Treatments
Treatment may be directed at a specific cause.
For example, the doctor may recommend discontinuing medication or performing surgery
to correct an anorectal problem such as rectal prolapse.
People with chronic constipation caused by anorectal dysfunction can use biofeedback to retrain the muscles that control release of bowel movements.
Biofeedback involves using a sensor to monitor muscle activity that at the same time can be displayed on a computer screen,
allowing for an accurate assessment of body functions.
A health care professional uses this information to help the patient learn how to use these muscles.
Surgical removal of the colon may be an option for people with severe symptoms caused by colonic inertia.
However, the benefits of this surgery must be weighed against possible complications, which include abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Ways to Achieve Constipation Relief
Drink lots of water. One of the main causes of constipation is a lack of hydration.
You should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day to promote a healthy bowel.
Adding lots of water is always good in the diet for constipation sufferers.
Eat your fruits and vegetables.
It may seem like common sense, but most people don't get enough of these nutritional power foods.
Five servings of fruits and vegetables each day can improve your bowel habits and provide constipation relief.
You should have at least 3 servings of vegetables every day and at least 2 servings of fruit.
Adding fruits and vegetables introduces fiber to your diet.
Fiber is instrumental in helping the bowels move regularly with ease and give relief to constipation.

Getting the toxins out will improve resistance to disease, normalize your weight, and increase your physical and mental stamina.
It’s similar to an oil change in your car. You need to clean out the sludge so your body can operate more effectively.

Colon Hydrotherapy is a safe, effective method of removing waste from the large intestine by the infusion of filtered, temperature regulated water.
A certified, skilled Colon Hydrotherapist will use several fills and releases of water, as well as light massage techniques, to dislodge toxic waste matter adhering to the walls of the colon. The dislodged fecal impactions are softened and loosened, resulting in evacuation through natural muscle contractions, and then gently washed away through the system's waste disposal hose. No chemicals or drugs are involved and the entire therapy is both relaxing and effective. Therapy is not offensive, nor painful. During a session, the client lies on a custom treatment table in complete comfort. A gown is worn to ensure modesty. An average session will last between 30 and 45 minutes.