Regular intake of laxatives and self-treatment of constipation is dangerous
Constipation can lead to a lot of stress, affecting your normal lifestyle.
- One in five peopleexperience chronic constipation, a condition that’s increasingly common in women as they get older.
- The findings of a ‘Gut health survey’ by Abbott says that 22% of Indian adults suffer from constipation, with 13% complaining of severe constipation.
Constipation is when you may have fewer than three bowel movements a week with stools that may be hard, dry, lumpy and which may be difficult or painful to pass. You may have a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely.
Although, one in five people experiences constipation, it affects women more than men. Hormonal changes make women more prone to constipation and makes it more likely to happen in them at certain times, such as pregnancy, in the days preceding menstruation and all the more common after menopause.
Occasional constipation is quite common. Chronic and ongoing constipation is not just uncomfortable, but can cause more serious and long-term complications and significantly affect the quality of life.
- Less than three bowel movements in a week
- Hard, dry and lumpy stools
- Straining to have bowel movements
- Painful bowel movements
- A sense of incomplete emptying
- Abdominal pain and bloating
Causes of constipation
It’s often difficult to pin-point the exact cause of constipation. Some of the most common causes of constipation include:
Constipation is a side effect of many prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These include, sedatives, iron supplements, opioid pain medications, certain antidepressants, medications to lower blood pressure or even laxatives.
- Lack of fiber in the diet.
Fiber acts as a natural laxative, which holds water in the stool, increases its bulk and makes it easy to pass. If your diet is low in foods rich in fiber such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts, it can affect digestion and passing of stools.
- Insufficient fluid intake.
Dehydration, as a result of insufficient fluid intake can cause constipation.
- Underlying medical conditions
Certain underlying medical conditions can cause constipation such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, hyperparathyroidism etc.
- Delayed emptying of the colon caused by pelvic floor disorders and colon surgery
- Diverticular disease
- Intestinal obstruction
- Colorectal cancer
- Narrowing of colon or bowel stricture
- Lazy bowel syndrome in which there is slow movement of stool through the digestive tract, due to poor colon contraction.
- Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis etc.
- Structural defects in the digestive tract like fistula, imperforate anus, colonic atresia, malrotation etc.
- Diseases like amyloidosis, lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma
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Risk factors for constipation
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic constipation include:
- Old age: Constipation is more common in older adults. This can be attributed to lack of physical activity, use of certain drugs to treat other medical conditions, slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength along digestive tract in the elderly.
- Gender: Constipation occurs more frequently in women. Changes in a woman’s hormones make them more prone to constipation.
- Stress: Stress hormones can affect gut health and digestion, which can lead to constipation.
- Lack of exercise; Good muscle tone is generally important for regular bowel movements. Lack of exercise can lead to weaker colon muscles that can lead to constipation.
- Resisting or delaying to evacuate: Overriding the urge to pass stool can increase your risk of being constipated as the stool remains in your rectum where it loses more moisture and eventually becomes dry, hard and extremely difficult to eliminate.
- Travel or changes in regular routine: Alterations in your daily routine such as traveling, eating, or going to bed at different times can cause constipation in some people.
- Pregnancy: An increase in the progesterone hormone during pregnancy can slow down digestion, which can lead to constipation
- Menopause: Constipation may be the result of declining hormone levels such as estrogen and progesterone in postmenopausal women.
Complications of constipation
For most people constipation rarely causes complications, but people with long-term constipation can develop:
- Hemorrhoids (piles): Chronic constipation may cause people to strain excessively in order to have a bowel movement, which may lead to the development of hemorrhoids in and around the anus.
- Anal fissure: An anal fissure is a small tear in the tissue that lines your anus. An anal fissure most often occurs while you pass large or hard stools or strain to have a bowel movement, both of which are common with constipation.
- Fecal impaction: Chronic constipation can also lead to fecal impaction. This happens when hard stools get stuck in your rectum.
- Rectal prolapse: Over a period, chronic constipation can cause rectal prolapse where a small amount of rectum protrudes from the anus caused by straining when trying to have a bowel movement.
People of all ages can be affected by constipation. However, older people are more likely than younger ones to experience this condition.
Hormonal changes, make women more prone to constipation
Constipation may not lead to life-threatening complications. However, untreated constipation can cause complications such as, painful hemorrhoids, anal fissures and rectal prolapse.
Occasional bout of constipation goes away with diet and lifestyle changes. However, chronic constipation that isn’t treated can lead to complications, some more serious than others.
Although it is important to add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet, a fiber rich diet alone may not help. Make sure that you follow a healthy lifestyle along with eating a healthy diet. If these changes do not work then it is important to see your doctor for further advice.
Laxatives are common medicines used to treat constipation. However, overusing laxatives can over time can weaken the bowel muscles.
In most cases, constipation improves on its own with simple changes in diet and lifestyle. However, in spite of these changes, if constipation persists and you have pain while passing stools or rectal bleeding, it would be good to consult a doctor.
At Uway we have a panel of distinguished and experienced doctors who can effectively & successfully treat and manage your condition.
Ayurveda medications are usually a very safe and effective option for treating constipation.
At UWAY, our doctors prescribe only proven medicines from well-established and reputed ayurvedic medicine manufacturers. However, just like certain foods do not always agree with everyone, few ayurvedic medicines may cause mild side effects in some patients. This is very rare though. In case you notice any such issue you can always talk to your consulting doctor or our medical team.
Your discussion with our medical advisor can last between 5 to 10 minutes and the doctor consultations can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
If you are already under treatment for constipation, we require medical records related to the treatment. And details of other medicines you are currently taking, especially for any pre-existing conditions for diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, cardiac issues etc.
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