Conquering Constipation: Where to start

When’s the last time you had a BM? As it turns out, bowel movements aren’t all that regular any more, at least for 12 to 19 percent of the population. Many people, especially women, experience constipation on a frequent basis.

What is Constipation?

  •         Straining to pass hard, dry stool
  •         The feeling of incomplete evacuation
  •         Sensation of anorectal obstruction
  •          Having BMs fewer than three times per week

     The truth is constipation isn’t just an annoyance; it can cause persistent discomfort and pain. If it becomes chronic, long-term side effects become more common (e.g., anal fissures, hemorrhoids, fecal incontinence, colonic conditions and urologic disorders).

What causes constipation?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always take much as the digestive tract can be very sensitive. Some of the most common factors that can lead to constipation include:

  •         Unhealthy Diet & Heavily Processed Foods
  •         Sedentary Lifestyle or Lack of Exercise
  •         Stress
  •         Medication Side Effects
  •         Stomach or Colorectal Condition(s)
  •         Thyroid Disease

So, if you’re constipated and looking for relief, how do you know which digestive aid to choose? Between stool softeners, fiber supplements and several other options, it can be hard to know where to start.

How do I Treat Tummy Troubles?

-       Bulk-Forming Laxatives: The safest and gentlest of the laxatives, especially for everyday or long-term use. With minimal side effects including, bloating, gas and cramping, but these should subside with consistent use. The most common bulk-forming products are fiber supplements (e.g., Metamucil, Benefiber…etc.).

-       Stimulant Laxatives: These are the harshest of the laxatives and can be really hard on your body. Due to the process by which they relieve constipation, these should not be taken frequently. Some of the short-term side effects can include gas, bloating, diarrhea and nausea. Long-term, you can become dependent on stimulant laxatives to go to the bathroom. Some of the most common stimulant laxatives include Dulcolax, Senokot and even high amounts of Magnesium.

While taking over-the-counter laxatives may be a good way to ease constipation, never forget the importance of a healthy fibrous diet, routine exercise, staying hydrated and other healthy forms of constipation prevention. Furthermore, because there are multiple factors that can cause constipation, it is important to ask your physician what the cause may be. Your physician can help to provide an individualized treatment plan that is safer and more effective. Even better, learn more from the experts at Gwinnett Medical Center, who can help you better understand your unique nutrition and weight management needs.


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