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Most frequently asked questions on constipation

Feeling constipated gives a huge blocker feel. Around 22% of the Indians suffer from constipation. Consumption of junk food, low water intake and irregular eating habits seem to be the biggest cause of constipation. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become infrequent or difficult to pass. Understanding the causes of constipation is crucial for effective management. In this article, we will explore the types of constipation, delve into their underlying factors, discuss the causes of constipation, and highlight the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Types of Constipation

Constipation can be classified into primary constipation and secondary constipation. Primary constipation has three main subtypes: normal transit constipation, slow transit constipation, and pelvic floor dysfunction.

What is Primary Constipation?

Primary constipation refers to constipation that is not caused by an underlying medical condition. It can be further categorized into subtypes based on the underlying cause.

1. What is Normal Transit Constipation? 

In normal transit constipation, stools travel at a normal rate and the stool frequency is also normal but the patient still might feel constipated. The severity of normal transit constipation varies, with some individuals experiencing mild symptoms and others more severe discomfort. 

Normal transit constipation is often related to factors such as inadequate dietary fibre intake, low fluid consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, and certain medications. Incorporating a diet rich in fibre, drinking enough water, and engaging in regular physical activity can help relieve normal transit constipation symptoms. A patient suffering from this might also feel bloated.  

2. What is Slow Transit Constipation? 

People with slow transit constipation do not feel the natural bowel stimulation. Slow transit constipation occurs when the movement of stool through the colon is slow, resulting in less frequent bowel movements and requiring excessive straining. The exact cause of slow transit constipation is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve abnormalities in the nerves or muscles of the colon. It mostly occurs in middle-aged females. 

3. What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when the patient is not able to relax and coordinate the pelvic floor muscles to pass stools. The pelvic floor muscles play a vital role in bowel movements by coordinating the relaxation and contraction necessary for proper stool passage.

What is Secondary Constipation?

Secondary constipation occurs as a result of an underlying medical condition or medication use. 

The most common causes include diabetes, hypothyroidism, depression, IBS, IBD, dementia and a few others. 

Secondary constipation can also get triggered because of certain medications, hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, and structural abnormalities in the digestive system. Unlike primary constipation, which is not caused by an underlying medical condition, secondary constipation requires identification and addressing the specific cause to effectively manage the condition.

Let us look at the most frequently asked questions on constipation

Frequently Asked Questions on Constipation

Q1: What is considered normal when it comes to bowel movements?

When we talk about frequency, any number between 3 times a day to 3 times a week is considered a normal bowel movement. Some people have a regular daily routine, while others may have less frequent but still regular bowel movements. It is essential to pay attention to any changes in your usual bowel habits and consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent changes or discomfort.

Q2: How can I prevent constipation?

The treatment of normal and slow transit constipation primarily focuses on lifestyle modifications and dietary changes to promote regular bowel movements.

  1. Diet: A high-fiber diet is the most recommended option to relieve constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and facilitates its passage through the digestive system. Foods rich in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. There is no side effect of adding fiber and in a few cases, the high-fiber diet alone is enough to relieve constipation. It is important to increase fiber intake gradually and drink plenty of fluids to prevent potential discomfort.
  2. Medication: Laxatives, stool softeners, Magnesium sulphate, chloride channel activators, or prokinetic agents that enhance intestinal motility can be prescribed. Medications should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional and for a limited duration.
  3. Exercise: Regular physical activity can promote healthy bowel movements by stimulating the muscles of the digestive system. Engaging in activities such as walking, jogging, yoga, or swimming can help alleviate constipation.

Q3: How does diet influence constipation? Are there any specific dietary recommendations to alleviate constipation?

Diet plays a hugely crucial role in the development and management of constipation. A low fibre diet and insufficient water intake may lead to constipation. A person typically needs 30g of fiber in a day and the diet needs to assure that. Inadequate fiber intake results in less bulk in the stool, making it harder to pass. Additionally, insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration, resulting in drier stools that are difficult to eliminate.

To alleviate constipation, it is essential to include fiber-rich foods in your diet. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, oats etc provide high fiber and also provide the necessary bulk to promote regular bowel movements. 

Additionally, adequate hydration is vital for preventing constipation. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Aim for around 2-3 litres of fluids daily, including water, herbal teas, and juices. However, it is important to note that sudden increases in fiber intake should be accompanied by increased fluid consumption to prevent discomfort and potential worsening of constipation symptoms.

Q4: Are there any natural remedies or Ayurvedic solutions for constipation?

Triphala is a combination of three fruits (amla, bibhitaki, and haritaki) and is commonly used in Ayurveda to promote healthy digestion and relieve constipation. It has worked very well in terms of treating constipation.

Psyllium Husk is a natural dietary fiber derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. It adds bulk to the stool and helps in regular bowel movements. Mix a tablespoon of it with water or milk and consume it before bedtime.

Prepare a mixture of freshly grated ginger and lemon juice in warm water and consume it on an empty stomach. Ginger helps stimulate digestion and lemon juice acts as a natural laxative.

Castor oil is known for its laxative properties and can help relieve constipation. However, it should be used under medical supervision, as excessive or prolonged use can lead to dependency.

Q5: Can certain medications contribute to constipation?

Some commonly used medications that may cause constipation include antibiotics, iron supplements, and antidepressants. These medications can slow down the movement of the intestines or affect the water absorption in the colon, leading to constipation. If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing constipation, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider. 

Q6: How does a sedentary lifestyle affect constipation? What can be done to counteract it?

Lack of physical activity also contributes majorly to constipation. Regular exercise helps stimulate the muscles in the intestines, promoting bowel movements. When we lead a sedentary life, the muscles may slow down and the movement of the waste through the digestive system might not be so smooth. 

Engaging in exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, or yoga can help stimulate the muscles in your intestines and improve overall bowel regularity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Even a good amount of movement on a daily basis can also make a lot of difference. It helps the muscles to move and aids in better digestion

Q7: Can stress and mental health issues contribute to constipation?

Stress is linked to the gut in numerous ways. When we are stressed, the body’s “fight-or-flight” response is activated, leading to changes in digestion and bowel function. Stress can slow down the movement of food through the intestines, resulting in constipation. Stressful situations can directly disrupt the gut and cause constipation. 

Mediation, yoga, breathing exercises, and engaging in hobbies can lead to the reduction of stress. Thus these exercises can help in alleviating a lot of symptoms. 

Q8: Are there any lifestyle modifications that can help with chronic constipation?

  1. Dietary changes: To alleviate constipation, it is essential to include fiber-rich foods in your diet. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, oats etc provide high fiber and also provide the necessary bulk to promote regular bowel movements. Additionally, adequate hydration is vital for preventing constipation. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Aim for around 2-3 litres of fluids daily, including water, herbal teas, and juices. However, it is important to note that sudden increases in fiber intake should be accompanied by increased fluid consumption to prevent discomfort and potential worsening of constipation symptoms.
  2. Exercise: All forms of exercise are good to relieve constipation. Even the easier ones like walking are good to get the bowel movement going.
  3. Probiotics: Gut dysbiosis is a major cause of constipation. The dysbiosis can be resolved with the help of probiotics which provide good bacteria to the gut.

Q9: Are there any home remedies or natural treatments for immediate relief from constipation?

Home remedies for treating constipation can work on mild constipation. However, for chronic and severe constipation it is always recommended to see a doctor

Drinking plenty of water or warm liquids like herbal tea to stay hydrated. This softens the stools and facilitates bowel movements

Massaging the abdomen sometimes can make the muscles in the intestines move making the waste flow more swiftly

Natural laxatives like flak seeds can be used to relieve constipation at times

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Q10: When should I seek medical help for constipation?

If constipation persists for an extended period, despite trying home remedies and lifestyle changes, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional. 

If you experience other symptoms like weight loss, rectal bleeding along with constipation then it is advisable to see a doctor. These symptoms may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires prompt evaluation and treatment.

If you notice significant changes in your bowel habits, such as the sudden onset of constipation in an individual who previously had regular bowel movements, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional. 

Individuals with a history of gastrointestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or those with a family history of colon cancer should consult a healthcare professional for guidance on managing constipation and appropriate screening.

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal issue that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Hope we have answered some of the questions that you might be facing.

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