CONSTIPATION: WHAT IS IT REALLY?
In the past, a popular belief was that it was important to have a bowel movement every day. We now know that nothing is less true. If it is really necessary to try to establish a so-called “normal” frequency, it should be considered that a person should evacuate a bowel movement between three times a day and once every three days. That being said, some people do this, for example, only once a week, without experiencing any particular discomfort or symptoms. So do not worry if the frequency with which you go to the bathroom is different from someone else.
Constipation is defined as an “abnormal” delay or difficulty in evacuating the stool. Whether acute (occasional) or chronic, it is a very common health problem that affects about 25% of the population. Women suffer more often than men. Chronic constipation is when the problem persists for more than three months with more or less marked symptoms.
The following symptoms often accompany constipation:
- flatulence (gas);
- stomach cramps;
- abdominal discomfort
- a feeling of heaviness.
IDENTIFY THE CAUSE TO BETTER INTERVENE
There are several causes for constipation. Here are a few:
- a diet low in fiber;
- hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, etc.);
- the presence of cracks, hemorrhoids (or any other problem that causes the person to refrain from bowel movements);
- drink little water;
- lack of exercise or sedentary lifestyle
- consumption of certain constipating foods (bread, rice, cheese, etc.);
- taking certain medications (laxatives over a long period, antidepressants, narcotics, antihypertensives, calcium, iron, etc.);
- certain diseases (eg irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, etc.);
- psychological difficulties (stress, depression, anxiety, etc.).
If you suffer from constipation and do not know why, ask your pharmacist if any of the medications you take may be the cause.
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT OR COUNTER THE PROBLEM?
Constipation, although uncomfortable, can be regulated by simple means. Here are some recommendations to adopt:
- a gradual increase in fiber intake to about 25 grams in women and 38 grams in men (whole grain cereals, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and legumes, etc.);
- Exercise regularly (at least three times a week for 30 minutes)
- drink plenty of water (about six to eight glasses a day)
- try to control his stress;
- go to the saddle as soon as the need arises.
If simply adopting these healthy lifestyle habits is not enough, a fiber supplement or mild laxative may be helpful.
THE USE OF LAXATIVES
It is not uncommon for people to have laxatives when they suffer from constipation, whether occasionally or more permanently. Making a choice among the many products available in pharmacies can sometimes be a real headache. That’s why you should always seek the advice of your pharmacist before buying any laxative product. Although generally safe if used as directed, laxatives can still cause side effects and interfere with the absorption of certain medications. For many of them, their action is not instantaneous, and they do not necessarily fit everyone.
If you are considering taking laxatives, here are some additional tips:
- Always take the lowest dosage that is effective. If you take too much dosage, you may have the opposite problem, that is, diarrhea.
- Allow the medication time to work. It can take a few minutes to a few days. Your pharmacist can inform you about how and when to take action on the different medicines available.
- Try to opt for mild laxatives rather than for those who are powerful as much as possible. Some products, when used long-term, can make your intestines lazy and possibly cause more constipation.
- Consider taking probiotics that can sometimes help the problem.
- Remember that medications should never replace healthy lifestyle habits.
- If your constipation problem is chronic, consider asking your doctor to prescribe medication.
WHEN TO CONSULT THE DOCTOR?
It is best to consult a doctor when:
- there has been no bowel movement for more than 5 days;
- constipation occurs suddenly and without any apparent reason;
- constipation is accompanied by blood in the stool without hemorrhoids being present;
- constipation is accompanied by pain, bloating, weight loss, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea (alternating with constipation);
- constipation has lasted more than three weeks;
- the stools diminish continuously.
In conclusion, constipation is a common problem that affects a lot of people. It can easily be explained in most cases and there are several simple ways to counter it. Although a medical treatment or consultation may be necessary, a healthy lifestyle is probably the key to happiness!