Monday, 16 February 2015

Constipation, its consequences, causes, solutions and use of laxatives

Constipation is the infrequent or difficulty in emptying the bowel due to stool remaining in the large intestine for long, consequently becoming hard and dry to pass out and/or muscle spasm. Constipation occurs in all age groups.

The consequences of constipation may include; loss of appetite resulting in underweight individuals in most cases, discomfort, pain, bad flatulence and bad breaths. In the long term constipation can also lead to faecal impaction (pool of hard stools in the rectum), haemorrhoids (piles), and bowel incontinence (the leakage of liquid stools). These consequences, affect our quality of life and prevent us from becoming healthier us to enjoy life to the fullest.

As the contributing factors of constipation include
1. Little or no fruits, vegetables, cereals intake and/or change in eating habits.
2. Drinking little or no fluids
3. Little or no physical activity
4. Ignoring the signal to pass stools and having limited time when using the toilet
5. Medication such as antacids, calcium and iron supplements
6. Conditions such as pregnancy, underweight, overweight, anxiety, depression, fever

One can prevent and get relief from constipation and its associated negative effect to become healthier us to enjoy life, fully, an individual must take these steps;
1. Include more fruits, vegetables cereals in everyday diet. These foods will help in drawing water into the large intestine helping form a bulky, soft fecal output for emptying.
2. Drink more fluids to soften stool for easier emptying of bowel
3. Engage in physical activities to improve muscle movement in the intestines to aid stool ‘transportation’.
4. Respond to the signals to empty bowels, so stool do not stay long in the intestine to become hard.
5. Develop regular bowel habits; the same time each day for a bowel movement. This can help train the large intestines to respond routinely and prevent one from postponing bowel time and also help one have enough time when using the toilet.
6. Rest feet on a stool so the knees are above the hips when using the toilet to help stool to easily pass out.
7. Relax to remove less stress on your body (large intestine muscles).
8. Consult your health professional if it is a side effect from a medication. Often when the dosage is completed, one can be relieved.

Use of Laxatives
Laxatives can help one get relief from constipation by irritating the intestinal muscle to move or by drawing water into the large intestines. However, regular use of laxatives can decrease muscle action in the large intestine – in time, causing constipation. The intestine can even become dependent on laxatives. It is thus recommended to consult a health professional before using laxatives. Bed-ridden or the elderly might need to use laxatives periodically for the relief of constipation but it should per health professional advice.

Get more tips from the book, Become A Healthier You.

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About contributor
Irene Danquah, ANutr holds a BSc Biochemistry from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana and an MSc Public Health Nutrition from the University of Southampton, UK. Irene is member of the UK Association for Nutrition (AfN) and the Ghana Nutrition Association. She is on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) as an Associate Nutritionist. Like the World Bank, Irene also believes "Nutrition is an investment issue and improved nutrition is one of the major drivers of economic growth - World Bank, 2006". 


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