Inactivity of the bowels resulting in difficult, infrequent or incomplete evacuation.
Persons most commonly affected: All age groups and both sexes. More common in women than in men and is especially apt to occur during pregnancy.
Organ or part of body involved: Colon and rectum.
Symptoms and indications: Frequent opening of the bowels and the faeces passed are hard, dark and small. There may be bleeding, straining and pain, swelling of the abdomen due to retained faeces and a feeling of bloatedness.
Causes and risk factors: The cause is usually an inappropriate diet, inadequate fluid intake and inattention to the need to open the bowel — the most common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and high in fats found in cheese, eggs, and meats. People who eat plenty of high-fiber foods are less likely to become constipated. Sometimes the cause lies in the colon itself. Too much water may be absorbed quickly, leading to the production of dry, hard faeces. Or, in the case of a ‘spastic colon’, the muscles are in spasm. Sometimes the muscles of the colon do not work properly because of lack of vitamin B in the food intake. Prolonged bouts of constipation may result in the development of piles or diverticulitis or in a hernia or prolapse of the rectum or uterus. Pregnancy may also cause constipation. Stress or suppressed emotions are often overlooked factors with constipation. There is a direct connection between perceived stress levels and gut motility. In addition, people with hectic lifestyles often do not take the time for regular bowel movements. And sometimes children hold back on stool movements for fear of pain or inconvenience. The use of over-the-counter laxatives is a significant problem for many people with constipation. Although these medications relieve constipation, many of them make the bowel lazier over time.
Prevention: Making changes to life style, including eating more roughage such as fruit, raw vegetables, wholemeal bread and bran, drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water or other liquids a day and taking more exercises. It is helpful to respond promptly to the urge to open the bowels and to encourage one daily bowel movement. Do not eat foods that are fried or otherwise high in saturated fats. Fat slows travel time through the intestines. Also avoid mucus-forming foods (dairy products, fried and processed foods, refined flours, and chocolates). They also slow the transit time of waste matter. Caffeine and alcohol are hard on the digestive system and are dehydrating as well. During an episode of constipation, avoid them entirely.
Tips: * Grind finely 1 tsp each of fennel, ginger and senna and take along with water at bedtime.