Constipation is a very common symptom, which is classically defined as fewer than 3 bowel movements per week.  Stools are generally more firm, small, dry, and difficult to pass.  Sometimes, cramp like pains occur in the lower part of your abdomen. Also, you may feel bloated and sick if you have severe constipation.

If constipation occurs rather suddenly or persists or worsens over time, a colonoscopy may be indicated to ensure that there is no evidence of obstruction, mass lesions, etc.

What Causes Constipation?

chart describing constipation symptoms and causesAccording to the National Institutes of Health, “Constipation is caused by stool spending too much time in the colon. “ The colon’s main job is to absorb water. The longer stool stays in the colon, the more water will be absorbed and the firmer the stool will be. Colonic transit can be enhanced by dietary choices since dietary fiber and adequate liquid consumption can help keep stools soft.

However, there are several factors that can cause constipation in addition to diet choices. Some of these contributing factors are, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Medications
  • Slow GI motility
  • Colon cancers or colonic strictures
  • Endocrine abnormalities such as hypothyroidism
  • Neurological and metabolic disorders
  • Functional GI disorders (like Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?

While the frequency of one’s bowel movements can vary, you may be constipated if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Passing firm, small or dry stools
  • Fewer than 3 bowel movements in a week
  • Experience pain during bowel movements
  • Abdominal bloating, cramps or pain
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

How does Gastroenterologist Work-up Constipation?

The diagnosis of constipation is predominantly a clinical diagnosis based on history. In order to determine the cause of the constipation, gastroenterologists will often recommend additional studies such as lab tests, colonoscopy, Gastrograffin Enema, CT scan, Sitz marker study, defecography, anorectal manometry, etc.

How do I get Relief from Constipation?

If you are constipated, try the following to get relief:

  • Drink 8 good-sized glasses of a nonalcoholic non-caffeinated liquid a day
  • Eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • If needed, try adding stool softeners such as docusate twice daily and/or MiraLax once daily.

When do I need to see a Doctor about Constipation?

If the diet and over the counter remedies above did not provide relief, you should seek medical attention. Gastroenterologists can prescribe prescription medications to assist with improving bowel frequency and can further evaluate the underlying etiology of the symptoms.
appt-buttonImage: Pharmacy Times

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.  All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical condition