Constipation is a condition of the digestive system when there is difficulty in expelling the feces. The stools are usually hard but in some cases there might be difficulty even though the stool is soft. In most cases, this occurs because of the decreased motility of the intestines. Slower the food moves through the digestive tract, the more water the colon will absorb from it and hence the hardness of the stool. When this happens, emptying the bowels can become very difficult and painful.
The symptoms are heaviness of the lower abdomen, bloating, constant pressure in the rectum, stomach ache, nausea and loss of appetite.
Common causes of constipation: Constipation usually occurs when the intestinal motility is too slow or if the colon absorbs too much water. This can occur if the muscles in the colon are contracting slowly or poorly, causing the stool to move too slowly and lose more water.
- Lack of fiber in the diet: It is important to consume foods rich in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber promotes bowel movements and prevents constipation. Avoid Foods that are low in fiber include high-fat foods, such as cheese, meat, and eggs.
- Physical inactivity: Constipation can occur if someone becomes too physically inactive. This is especially the case in older adults. Physically activity helps to improve the metabolism and increase the bowel movements.
- Medications: Certain medications such as narcotics, antidepressants, iron supplements, antacids and diuretics can cause constipation.
- Dairy products: Some people become constipated when they consume milk and dairy products.
- Medical conditions: Such as Irritable bowel syndrome can cause constipation much more frequently.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can make a woman more susceptible to constipation due to hormonal changes and pressure on the intestines.
- Changes in routine: Frequent changes in the normal routine can affect the digestive system, which sometimes results in constipation.
- Abuse of laxatives: Self medicating with too much of laxatives affects the normal peristaltic movements and it becomes a addictive habit. This leads to constipation when they are stopped.
- Diseases of the colon or rectum: Any tumors or obstruction, scar tissue, diverticulosis, and abnormal narrowing can compress or restrict the intestinal passages and cause constipation.
- Genetic: Hirschsprung disease, a birth defect in which some nerve cells are absent in the large intestine.
- Endocrine and metabolic conditions: Such as uremia, diabetes and hypothyroidism.
Management and treatment
In most of the cases constipation resolves itself without any treatment or complication. It can be managed by lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, increased fiber intake, and drinking more water.
- Increasing fiber intake: People with constipation should take more amount of fiber rich food such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and fortified cereals.
- Drinking water: Consuming lots of water can help to rehydrate the body. Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
- Intake of bulking agents: Such as wheat bran and prunes can help to soften the stools and make them easier to pass.
- Regular exercise: It can help to improve the bodily functions and increase the bowel motility.
- Maintain routine: Keeping a regular bowel habit helps to prevent constipation.
- Avoiding holding in stools: Do not control the urge to pass stools when present.
Things that happen inside the body when constipated
1. In a normal digestive system, the food moves at a normal rate through the intestines, the small intestines absorbs the nutrients and the large intestine absorbs water from the digested food. Then the remaining waste is passed as stool. But during constipation, the food moves too slowly and stays too long in the colon thereby too much water is absorbed. This leads to dryness and hard stools. The other reason might be a particular bacterium called clostridia, which disrupts the intestinal bacterial balance and increases water retention in the colon, drying out waste.
2. There may be accumulation of stool in the rectum and anus due to fecal impaction. This is a serious medical condition and may need laxatives, a lot of water, and possibly a suppository or enema.
3. Chronic constipation may lead to increased risk of diverticulitis, where a bulge is formed on the lining of the colon due to the pressure of straining to pass the stool, and sometimes may get infected from the bacteria that is trapped in the stool.
4. Stool is made up of waste, and is meant to be expelled out of the body but the colon is equipped with containing the problem and the body does not buildup toxins. The only risk of bacterial infection is infection of any wounds that is already in the colon or rectum.
5. There is a close relationship between the colon and the urinary bladder. If there is too much pressure on the bladder from a full colon, the bladder cannot fill properly and may empty half the way and cause a leak unexpectedly. Too much strain put on for the bowel movements, may damage the pelvic floor muscles, which are important for a proper bladder control.
Homeopathic medicines to relieve constipation
Bryonia alba: It is indicated for constipation with a feeling of dryness in the rectum, large dry stools that are hard to expel, with sticking or tearing pains.
Calcarea carbonica: Large stools, hard at first, then sticky, then liquid. The person may feel chilly and sluggish, have clammy hands and feet, crave sweets, and feel weak and anxious when ill or overworked.
Causticum: Stool is difficult to pass, with painful straining. Face turns red from effort, stool passes better by standing up.
Graphites: Constipation without urge, very large and dry stools, with feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen associated with anal itching and burning.
Lycopodium: It is indicated for frequent indigestion with bloating. Rubbing the abdomen or drinking something warm help to relieve the symptoms.
Natrum muriaticum: For constipation with very dry stools, desire for salt or salty foods, and lack of thirst.
Nux vomica: For people who work too hard and exercise too little, indulge in stimulants or alcohol, sweets and spicy food. Constipation with headaches and chilliness. Constricting pain in the bowels and rectal area during constipation.
Sepia: Sensation of heaviness in the rectum, remaining after a bowel movement. Stool hard and difficult to pass, although small. Sepia is indicated in women with constipation before or after a menstrual period.
Silicea: Has to strains for long periods without success. The stool seems to pass but eventually retreats. Sulphur: Dry, hard stools with reddish inflammation of the anus and offensive flatulence. Constipation alternate with diarrhea.
Chelidonium majus: Constipation with discolored stools, nausea and feeling of heaviness on the right side of the abdomen.