Constipation generally means a hard dry stool that is difficult to pass, or passing less than 3 bowel movements a week. It is usually normal to not go every day, or go anywhere from 3 times a day to 3 times a week.
What causes constipation?
Your gut moves food waste (stool) along in wave like motions. Constipation occurs when the stool passes through the colon (large intestine) too slowly. In the colon, water is absorbed from the stool back into the body. Stools that remain too long in the colon become dry and hard.
The are may be many causes of constipation. It may be because you are not be drinking enough fluid each day, or eating enough fibre in your diet. There may have been a change in your routine that can temporarily slow your gut down. Occasionally a person has a colon that moves too slowly regardless. Some drugs slow motility of the bowel especially strong painkillers such as codeine or morphine.
Certain health concerns, such as an underactive thyroid or diabetes can contribute to constipation.
How is constipation treated?
Exercise is a good way to help stimulate the colon to move waste through. You also need to drink between 1 ½ & 2 litres of non caffeinated fluid a day and limit alcohol. Your diet should consist of a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grain bread with very little refined and packaged foods. Less red meat also helps.
Laxatives can be prescribed by your health care professional, but should not be used long term. You may need an enema or suppositories if you haven’t gone for some time and are really uncomfortable.