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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Constipation - The Most Common Digestive Complaint In The US

By Ricardo Henri


Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less than three times per week and is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the USA. It is a sign, not a disease and occurs when the colon absorbs too much H2O or if the colons muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon very slowly. It affects almost everyone sooner or later.


The most common reasons for constipation are a diet low in fiber or a diet high in fats, such as cheese, eggs, and meats. Those who eat a high-fiber diet are less apt to become constipated. Fiber can't be digested, so it helps scrub out the intestines by moving the bowels along, while a diet full of fatty, sugary, or starchy foods can slow the bowels down.


Self-therapy with over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives is far and away the most common aid. Although individuals may feel relief when they use laxatives, typically they must increase the amount over time because the body grows reliant on laxatives in order to have a bowel movement. Thus,laxatives may become habit-forming. Most people who are mildly constipated do not require laxatives. For children, short-term treatment with laxatives, along with re-training to establish normal bowel habits, helps prevent constipation. But, for those who have incorporated diet and lifestyle changes and are still constipated, a MD may suggest laxatives or enemas for a limited time. For most people, stop taking laxatives restores the colons natural ability to contract.


Depending on your diet, age and daily activities, routine bowel movements can mean anything from three bowel movements a day to one every three days. The symptoms are key to helping the health care provider determine a diagnosis and provide therapy. Extensive testing usually is reserved for individuals with severe symptoms, for those with drastic changes in the number and consistency of bowel movements or blood in the stool, and older adults.


Although treatment depends on the reason, severity, and duration of the constipation, in most cases dietary and lifestyle alterations will help relieve symptoms and help prevent them from returning. If an underlying disorder is the problem, therapy will be directed toward the specific cause. Above all, it is necessary to recognize that a successful treatment program entails persistent effort and time.


Constipation is the infrequent and difficult passage of stool and can lead toward complications, such as hemorrhoids produced by extreme straining or fissures caused by the hard stool stretching the sphincter muscles. It is a common symptom, but it routinely remains unrecognized until the individual develops sequelae, such as anorectal disorders or diverticular disease. Constipation is the end rsult of several factors: poor diet, lack of exercise, motility abnormalities, and anatomic defects, plus the patient's expectations and psychological factors.

In children it is often diet-related, especially toddlers who are being switched from formula feeds to milk. It is a symptom rather than a disease and is the most common digestive complaint in the USA. Constipation does not come about overnight, and it is not reasonable to expect that it can be relieved overnight.

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