Constipated? Well, you are not alone…everyone experiences it at various times in life but, did you know that it is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints? In fact, constipation results in over 2 million doctor visits per year and $400 million is spent on remedies each year.
What is normal?
Everyone is different and there is no set absolutes in bowel habits, but in general, it takes about 3 days for food to completely be moved through the digestive process. So, if you go to the bathroom less frequently than every three days you should consider yourself constipated. Chronic constipation should be treated by a gastroenterologist to determine if there are underlying causes that need to be addressed.
What causes constipation?
There are many reasons for people to experience temporary constipation:
- Inadequate dietary fiber, it is recommended that an adult take in 30-40 grams per day
- Inadequate liquid, 6-8 glasses of water per day is recommended. Not all liquid needs to be water but things like coffee and alcohol actually have a diuretic effect and should not be counted as liquid intake and, in fact, additional water should be added to counteract the effects.
- Lifestyle changes and stress
- Poor toilet habits – fighting the “urge” to go or trying to “hurry up” the process
- Some over the counter drugs and prescription drugs like, calcium supplements, iron supplements, antacids containing aluminum or calcium, narcotics and some pain medications and some antidepressants – just to name a few.
- Abusing laxatives and enemas
- Some GI illness, like IBD for example, are characterized by bouts of constipation
- Irregular eating habits
- Prolonged periods of inactivity, for example recovering from an injury or surgery
What is the best treatment?
The best treatment is prevention – eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables and drinking appropriate amounts of water everyday.
If, despite your best efforts, you still find your self constipated you should make an appointment with your physician at SoCal Gastro Group to make sure there is no underlying, serious medical issue that is causing the problem.
If prolonged constipation is accompanied by unexplained weight loss, swollen abdomen, severe abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, fever, pain, bleeding or pencil-thin stools, seek help immediately.