Most episodes of constipation result from a lack of fiber in the diet, a limited intake of water and reduced physical activity. Complications such as hemorrhoid, a dependency on laxatives, hernia or a prolapse of the womb or rectum may be brought on by chronic constipation.
These are swollen veins around the anal opening that are caused by straining to pass a stool over a long period of time. They are extremely painful and may rupture and bleed. If they are large enough, they will be visible from the outside.
Dependency on Laxatives
People who abuse laxatives over an extended period of time have sluggish bowels.
A hernia is the bulging of the abdominal contents through a weak point in the abdominal wall. This is worsened by too much straining when trying to pass hard stools.
A Prolapsed Womb or Rectum
A prolapsed womb or rectum may result from excessive straining and weakness of the muscles in this area.
Constipation is very common in infants and children. Babies who are formula fed are far more likely to develop constipation compared to breast fed babies. It is very rare for breast fed babies to develop constipation because breast milk is extremely easily digested and their stools are much softer. Bottle fed babies on the other hand are much more likely to become constipated because the formula milk is harder to digest.
They also tend to have fewer bowel movements, their stools are thicker and greenish color compared to the soft, frequent mustard yellow stools of breast fed babies. A diaper rash or a small tear in the anus region may also make bowel movements painful. To prevent constipation in formula fed infants, change their diet by including more fiber, increase their intake of water and fruit juices or switch to a soy formula.
Children who are constipated tend to have hard or painful stools or no bowel movement for four days or more and it is commonly due to a diet low in fiber, not drinking enough water, drinking too much milk or holding out to go the bathroom. A child with constipation tends to hold in their movements to avoid the pain which in turn worsens the constipation and so the vicious cycle continues. Severe, untreated chronic constipation can lead to physical problems with the digestive tract and the metabolic systems in the body.
To prevent chronic constipation in children, make sure they have a diet rich in fiber that includes whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of water and fruit juice to drink. Of course exercise and physical activity are great preventatives too!
Constipation causes much discomfort during pregnancy and is very common. During pregnancy, the muscles in your intestines are more relaxed causing the slowed passage of stools and constipation. The growing baby also adds pressure on the lower intestines in the last few months of pregnancy. There are other factors that contribute to constipation such as an inadequate diet, certain supplements, hormonal changes, reduced activity and stress. By increasing more fiber and fluids to your diet, and doing gentle exercise you can prevent and treat constipation. If you are battling with severe constipation during pregnancy your doctor may consider reducing your intake of iron but this can only be done under his or her supervision.
There are various ways to prevent constipation and they include:
- Add high fiber foods such as whole grain breads, bran cereal, dried fruit, raisins, fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet.
- Drink plenty of liquids such as water, fruit juices, hot tea or lemon water to stimulate the bowels.
- Ginger tea is an effective home remedy for constipation (for babies opt for homeopathic remedies instead of herbal ones).
- Regular exercise such as walking or swimming everyday can help to both prevent and relieve constipation.
- Avoid regular use of laxatives or enemas.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, processed and junk food if you are suffering from constipation.
- Stool softeners taken daily may also prevent constipation.
- Increase your intake of magnesium by taking supplements or eating foods such as nuts, seeds or green leafy vegetables.
- Practice regular bowel habits by visiting the toilet for at least ten minutes after breakfast even if you are unable to have a bowel movement. The best time is usually the first hour after breakfast. Done regularly this will help to set up a healthy bowel routine.