Constipation is the source of plenty of jokes. However, if you deal with it--even occasionally--constipation isn't funny; you just want it resolved. Your gastroenterologist helps many patients with constipation, uncovering reasons for it, and getting people the relief they need. Here's some practical help.
What is constipation?
In general, constipation is the inability to pass stool regularly. Often, changes in daily routine, travel, and a diet low in fiber leads to fullness and pain in the abdomen, sluggishness, super-hard stools, and even bleeding and hemorrhoids produced by straining. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic say that 2.5 million Americans annually see their primary care physicians because they are constipated.
What causes constipation?
Many factors play into this gastrointestinal complaint. Poor hydration and an age-related slow metabolic rate are common causes, as are:
- Certain medications
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive amounts of dairy products, including cheese and milk
- Not going to the toilet frequently enough
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Abusing laxatives
Pinpointing the reasons
Your constipation may signal an underlying disease condition, and it can lead to physical issues such as rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids if left untreated. Your gastroenterologist will want to review all your symptoms; so be specific about your bowel movements, when your constipation started, and what, if anything, relieves it. He or she may run tests, such as X-rays or colonoscopy, to look for structural abnormalities or disease processes.
How can you deal with constipation?
John Hopkins Medicine says that most constipation responds to:
- Changing your diet to include fiber
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to soften stool
- Staying as active as possible
- Switching routine medications (with your doctor's approval)
- Limited use of laxatives (enemas, glycerin suppositories, stimulant laxatives)
- Daily fiber supplements (psyllium or bran cereals) or stool softeners
Some gastroenterologists recommend biofeedback techniques for their constipated patients. With biofeedback, the individual learns how to strengthen and to use his or her pelvic floor muscles more efficiently.
Manage your constipation
A healthy gut means a healthier, happier you. To learn more about constipation and other common GI problems, contact your gastroenterologist.