Suffering From Constipation
Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements,
usually fewer than three times a week. People who are constipated may find it
difficult and painful to have a bowel movement. Other symptoms of constipation
include feeling bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish.
Many people think they are constipated when, in fact, their bowel movements
are regular. For example, some people believe they are constipated, or
irregular, if they do not have a bowel movement every day. However, there is no
right number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Normal may be three times a day
or three times a week depending on the person. Also, some people naturally have
firmer stools than others.
At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. Poor diet and lack
of exercise are usually the causes. In most cases, constipation is temporary and
not serious. Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most
people find relief.
Who gets constipated?
According to the 1996 National Health Interview Survey, about 3 million
people in the United States have frequent constipation. Those reporting
constipation most often are women and adults age 65 and over. Pregnant women may
have constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the
United States, resulting in about 2 million doctor visits annually. However,
most people treat themselves without seeking medical help, as is evident from
the millions of dollars Americans spend on laxatives each year.
What causes constipation?
To understand constipation, it helps to know how the colon (large intestine)
works. As food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming waste
products, or stool. Muscle contractions in the colon push the stool toward the
rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the
water has been absorbed.