Constipation technically refers to having less than three bowel movements in a week.
It also includes other key features such as:
- Having a feeling that the bowels are not fully emptied.
- Dry and hard stools.
- Painful bowel movements and difficulty in passing the stools.
What causes constipation?
- Older age- Old people have less muscle mass, a more sedentary lifestyle, and a slower metabolism. This makes them more prone to get constipated.
- Woman especially pregnant woman and after childbirth- During pregnancy changes in the hormones of a woman occur that makes them more prone to constipation. Also, the baby inside the uterus compresses the bowels and slows down the passage of stool.
- A diet that is low in fibers
- Inadequate intake of water.
- Not exercising regularly.
- Taking excessive milk or cheese
- Change in routine such as travelling, eating, or going to sleep at different times
- Resisting the desire to pass stool
- Medications– Taking certain medications such as painkillers, NSAIDs, antidepressants, iron supplements, anti-allergy drugs, antacids with aluminium or calcium, anti-hypertensive medicines, certain anticonvulsants, and anti-nausea medications.
- Prolonged mental stress
- Medical conditions- These further include:-
- Endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and uremia.
- Colorectal cancer
- Diverticular disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Neurological disorders like spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
- Outlet dysfunction constipation- In this the coordination of the pelvic floor muscles is defective. As a result, they need help to excrete stool.
- Intestinal obstruction
- Lazy bowel syndrome- In this the muscles of the colon contract poorly and thus the stool is retained.
- Multiple organ diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, amyloidosis
- Defects in the structure of the digestive tract such as fistula, and volvulus.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
The various symptoms of constipation are:
- Having less than three bowel movements in a week.
- Dry, hard, and lumpy stools.
- Difficulty or even pain while passing stools.
- Stomach ache or cramps.
- Bloating of the abdomen and nausea.
- Feeling as if the bowels are not completely emptied after a movement.
What complications can arise due to constipation?
Constipation can lead to some complications. These are:
- Piles or swollen veins in the rectum.
- Anal fissures or tears in the anal lining. It occurs when the hardened stools pass through the rectum.
- Diverticulitis- This refers to the infection in the pouches that are formed of the colon wall from the trapped and infected stool.
- Fecal impaction or the pile-up of too much stool in the anus or rectum.
- Stress urinary incontinence This arises from damage to the pelvic floor muscles due to overstraining. These muscles also help to control the bladder. Therefore too much straining may result in urine leaking from the bladder.
How can the cause of constipation be detected?
Depending upon the overall health, medical history, and current symptoms, the doctor may advise no test or the following investigations to rule out the cause of constipation:-
- Blood tests to detect anemia, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
- Stool tests to detect any cancer, inflammation, or infection.
- Imaging tests such as CT or MRI
- Colonoscopy to get the internal view of the intestine with a scope.
- Colorectal transit studies
What are the various homeopathic medicines for constipation?
Homeopathy provides the best treatment for constipation. Well-selected constitutional medicine that is most similar to the disease manifestation is the best homeopathic medicine for constipation. For this, a trained homeopathic physician takes a detailed case history of the patient. He elicits symptoms from both the mental and physical spheres. At times past medical history of the patient or even his family may be explored to rule out the cause and eliminate it with appropriate medication.
What are the 10 best natural home remedies to relieve constipation?
Home remedies that can help relieve constipation naturally are:
Try and have eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily to avoid constipation. Carbonated drinks like soda are seen to be even more effective in relieving constipation.
2. Take a fibre-rich diet
Having a diet rich in fiber helps to relieve constipation. Dietary fibers fall into two major categories: soluble and insoluble fibers.
- Soluble fibers – They absorb water and form a gel-like paste. This softens the stools and improves consistency. It is present in nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, peas, barley, oat bran, and some fruits and vegetables.
- Insoluble fibers- They add to the bulk of the stools and help them pass more easily through the digestive tract. Out of the two, the non-fermentable soluble fibers are the best for treating constipation.
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise such as regular walks, cycling, swimming, or jogging can help reduce the symptoms of constipation.
4. Take Coffee
Caffeine in coffee can stimulate the muscles in the digestive tract and help relieve constipation.
5. Take Senna
Senna stimulates the nerves in the bowels that speed up bowel movements. However, it should be avoided in pregnant and lactating women as well as those with inflammatory bowel disease.
Probiotics are living and beneficial bacteria that are naturally found in the gut. They help by improving bowel movements and increasing stool consistency. Adding probiotic food such as yoghurt, sauerkraut or kimchi or probiotic supplements helps relieve constipation.
These include the following:-
- Bulking agents: They have fibers and increase the water content of the stools.
- Stool softeners: They have oils that soften stools and ease their passage.
- Stimulant laxatives– They stimulate nerves in the guts and increase their movement.
- Osmotic laxatives– They pull water into the digestive system from the surrounding tissues and thus soften the stool. One can consult a doctor to know which laxative will be the best for him to relieve constipation.
Prune and prune juice have fibre and sorbitol that have a laxative effect. One can have seven medium prunes twice a day.
9. Prebiotic food
These are indigestible carbohydrate fiber. They add to the bulk of the stool and also feed the beneficial probiotic bacteria in the bowels. Prebiotic food includes: –
10. Try a low FODMAP diet
It stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAP diet means restricting high FODMAP foods for some time before reintroducing them to find out the ones the body can tolerate.
Constipation is a very common problem. It can occur in people of all ages. It refers to having less than three bowel movements in a week or having hard and dry stools. Some factors like old age, pregnancy changes in routine and diet, certain medications as well as medical conditions like diabetes, and hypothyroidism are found to cause constipation.
Prolonged mental stress also leads to constipation in some cases. At times lab investigations are advised to detect the cause of constipation. Constipation can adversely affect the routine of an individual. If not timely treated it can also lead to various complications such as piles, fissures, diverticulitis, fecal impaction, and stress urinary incontinence.
There are certain home remedies that are found to relieve constipation naturally and effectively. These mainly include consuming fiber-rich food, prebiotic food, prunes, coffee, senna, and probiotics. Taking plenty of water and regular exercise also helps relieve constipation.
However in cases where natural remedies are not of much help, one can resort to homeopathy as a safe and effective option for the treatment of constipation.