Constipation occurs when bowel movements are difficult to pass. Most people pass stools three times a day to three times a week.
Constipation may be accompanied by cramping and pain in the rectum, caused by trying to pass hard, dry stools. There may be some bloating and nausea.
Rarely, a stool may become lodged, or impacted, in the rectum. If this happens mucus and fluid may leak out around the stool, or there may be uncontrollable leakage of stool (fecal incontinence).
A lack of fibre and inadequate water in a diet are common causes of constipation. Other causes include travel, a lack of exercise, delaying bowel movements, medications, pain due to haemorrhoids and laxative overuse. Irritable bowel syndrome may also cause constipation.
- Eat plenty of high-fibre foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains;
- Avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar;
- Drink one and a half to two quarts of water and other liquids every day. However, some people find milk to be constipating;
- Exercising more. Setting up a walking program would be a good start;
- Go when you feel the urge.
When to See a Doctor
- If acute constipation persists after the above treatment has been followed for one week for adults or three days for infants;
- If sharp or severe pain occurs in the abdomen;
- If constipation and major changes in bowel movement patterns persist longer than two weeks without reason;
- If you are unable to have a bowel movement without laxatives.