Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies and Treatment
Constipation is the infrequent passage of stools, which may be hard and difficult to evacuate, accompanied by abdominal discomfort. We take a close look at this affliction and natural ways to treat it.
In a majority of individuals, constipation has no apparent cause except that it is a motility (movement) disorder of the colon. When the symptom is a new development, though, it needs to be investigated, especially in the elderly and if other features such as the passage of blood and weight loss accompany it. In such situations, it may be a manifestation of a narrowing of the colon by tumours or strictures.
Constipation develops more often in persons who had poor bowel training in childhood, in those who have sedentary lifestyles or irregular shift duties, and those who consume less fluids and fibre in their diet. While it may only be a bothersome symptom, it can lead to complications like haemorrhoids (piles) and fissures, which may worsen into hernias, and can dangerously strain weak hearts and overload a compromised liver.
Ways to treat Constipation:
Significant relief can be obtained by controlling unhealthy lifestyles and by consuming adequate fluids (over 1.5 litres a day) and fibres. Others may benefit by using fibre supplements (isapghul or psyllium husk) or stool softeners (lactulose, lactitol, polyethylene glycol) or medications that promote colon contraction (prokinetic agents).
Laxative use should be restricted to the minimum and for short durations in acute situations, in order to avoid habit formation and further weakening of an already weak colonic contraction.
Are Churna safe to treat constipation?
A common misconception is that alternative remedies (e.g., churna) are safer; the fact is that these have the same downside as mainstream laxatives. An important point is that, except for lifestyle changes, embarking on any other measure should be on the advice of a physician.
According to a multi-centre study obtained from 2,785 patients with chronic lower gastrointestinal symptoms (complainants), 4.2% of the study population suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Most patients with IBS in India are middle-aged men (68%, mean age: 39.4 years) and have a sense of incomplete evacuation and mucus with stools. Among non-complainants, most subjects reported daily defecation frequency of one (56%) or two (34%) thus concluding that 90% of Indians pass stools 1-2 times a day. In the west, the frequency of bowel movement is approximately 3-4 times a week which is absolutely normal.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
Multiple quotes by Dr. Philip Abraham, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai
Data courtesy by Dr. Philip Abraham [MBBS, MD (General Medicine), FCPS (General Medicine),DNB (Gastroenterology)], Consultant Gastroenterology - Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai
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