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What is constipation?

What causes constipation?


What is constipation ?

Constipation occurs when the muscle action in the large bowel or colon is not fully effective, making the waste more difficult to eliminate from the body. It is a condition where bowel emptying is less frequent than is normal for an individual, the stools may be hard and small, or where passing a stool can cause pain. It can be quite difficult to define precisely.

The symptoms of constipation include painful, difficult bowel movements and feeling gassy or bloated. Other signs include hard, dry stools or excessive straining to pass a bowel movement. Tummy pain, or a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowel, are also common symptoms.

Surprisingly, constipation can be one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in older people. What happens is that a hard plug of stool in the lower bowel prevents a full bowel movement and only a runny stool can be passed.

Women are also more prone to constipation because bowel movements can be influenced by hormonal changes, particularly during pregnancy and menopause. However, infrequent bowel movements alone do not necessarily indicate constipation. Constipation is generally diagnosed when someone has fewer than three bowel movements a week, and/or stools are hard and dry.

If you have a concern about your bowel movements, medical advice should be sought. Signs that there might be a problem include:

  • Finding blood or muceus in the stools
  • Experiencing severe pain during bowel movements

What causes constipation?

Constipation can occur when the normal muscle action in the large colon(large intestine) fail to work properly. What happens then is that the contents of the bowel cannot be eliminated normally.

The causes of constipation are complex and for many people with long-standing constipation there may be no identifiable cause. However, identifiable causes of constipation may be one of the following:

  • Poor general health

  • Lack of exercise

  • Not enough fluids

  • A diet too low in fibre

  • Poor toilet facilities, which discourage people from going to the bathroom

  • Recovery from surgery

  • Changes in routine

  • Hormonal changes

In addition, there are a number of illnesses and medicines that are linked to constipation. Where there is blood or muceus in association with constipation or it alternates with diarrhoea, medical advice is essential.

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