The next time someone tells you that you are full of [email protected], you may need to stop and think about it, because they may be right…literally. As far as digestive problems go, constipation is the most common one that people in the U.S complain about. Constipation can make you feel irritable and bloated and and can cause you to suffer from headaches.
In order to be relieved from constipation, especially long-term or chronic constipation, Americans spend a lot of time, effort and money. According to WebMD, “Each year in the U.S., chronic constipation leads to around 2.5 million doctor visits — and medication costs of many hundreds of million dollars.”
Chronic Constipation: What Is It?
The definition of chronic constipation varies among different people. For some people, chronic constipation means infrequent bowel movements for weeks at a time. To others, chronic constipation means straining or having difficulty passing stools. For instance, many describe chronic constipation as feeling like you need to have a bowel movement, but no matter how long you sit, it just won’t happen. With chronic constipation, you may have hard or formed stools, small stools, or a combination of infrequent hard, formed or small stools.
Generally, the definition of chronic constipation is a stool frequency of less than three per week that lasts several months. Still, experts believe that many who think they suffer from chronic constipation may actually underestimate the frequency of their bowel habits, so this definition may not be accurate.
Keys to Relieving Chronic Constipation
Relieving chronic constipation takes a multifaceted, lifestyle approach:
1. Get Regular
Go to the bathroom at the same time each morning. Make this your morning “habit,” as colonic motor activity is highest at this time.
2. Listen to Your Body
Don’t ignore the urge to go. Peristalsis of the bowel — the movements that trigger a bowel movement — come and go. If you ignore this urge, you may lose the opportunity. The longer stool stays in the bowel, the harder it gets as more water is reabsorbed, and the more difficult it is to expel. The urge to defecate also increases after mealtime, so take advantage of your body’s signals.
Because stress can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, including the bowels, it’s important to use some type of relaxation technique daily. Satish Rao, MD, PhD, FRCP, professor of medicine and director of neurogastroenterology and GI motility at the University of Iowa, finds that many patients cannot push properly because they are too rushed and stressed. “They have too little time to take care of their bodies,” says Rao.
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