In America, over 2.5 million doctor’s visits are due to or related to constipation and over $700 million is spent on laxative products each year. Constipation is a common gastrointestinal problem. It is a symptom, not a disease.
What Is Constipation?
The American College of Gastroenterology defines constipation as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. However, a “normal” amount of bowel movements per week is defined on an individual basis. Thus, constipation is better defined as occurring when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. During constipation, stool becomes hard, dry, small, and difficult to eliminate.
What Causes Constipation?
A variety of factors can cause Constipation, these include:
- Diet – inadequate fiber intake
- Medications – such as narcotics/ antidepressants
- Laxatives- chronic use / over use
- Bacterial Overgrowth
- Colon Cancer
- Colon Obstructions
- Colon Motility Disorders
- Hormonal Disorders- such as hypothyroidism/ menstrual periods
Everyone tends to experience constipation at some period in their lives and although it is not usually serious, it can be a concern. If constipation has a sudden onset, persists for a long period of time, or continues to worsen, you need to see your gastroenterologist in Frisco, TX area.
When to see a Doctor for Constipation?
Most causes of constipation can be alleviated by increasing your fiber and fluid intake and getting on a regular physical activity regimen. If that does not do the trick try adding a gentle laxative like milk of magnesia or MiraLax.
If symptoms are severe and occur for more than 3 weeks, you should see a physician. Constipation is treated on a patient per patient basis, depending on the cause of the symptom. In order to rule out any serious medical conditions, your Gastroenterologist may want to perform tests or procedures. These may include:
- Abdominal CT Scans
- Blood Tests
- Transit/Motility Studies
Once the cause of the constipation is determined, your GI will likely be able to prescribe a treatment regimen which will enable you to go back to a symptom-free life.
Dietary Tips to help prevent Constipation
Most often mild constipation can be alleviated by adding more fiber to your diet. Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body can’t break down. When you eat foods that have a lot of it, the extra bulk helps keep stools soft and speeds digestion.
Depending on your age and sex, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that adults should get 22 to 38 grams of fiber a day. Those over 50 years of age need less fiber – 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men.
High Fiber Foods
Examples of foods high in fiber are:
- Fiber Supplements
Foods to Avoid Eating when Constipated
When constipated, try not to eat too many foods with little or no fiber, such as:
- Fast Food
- Processed Foods