What is Constipation?
Typically, constipation presents as difficulty with passing firm to hard stools, but may also present as the infrequent passing of normal stools. It is not necessarily that one does not have a bowel action every day, as the normal range of bowel frequency varies from three bowel actions per day to one bowel action every two or three days.
When should I seek help?
Constipation becomes abnormal and requires assistance if:
- there is a persistent change in your normal bowel habit;
- it is it is associated with bloating or cramping abdominal pain;
- there is bleeding from the back passage;
- passing stools requires lots of time straining on the toilet;
- you need to use your fingers in the back passage, or even the front passage (in women) to clear your bowels;
- you have the feeling that there is a “ball” blocking the passage of motion in the back passage; or
- there is absolute constipation when you do not pass any motion or wind over several days.
If you have symptoms such as these, an appointment should be made with your GP to get a referral to SCA.
Causes of constipation
Constipation is caused by many factors and combined factors, however, most causes are lifestyle related such as:
- low fibre, high fat diet;
- low fluid intake;
- inactivelifestyle (sedentary);
- change in daily routine; and
- stress and anxiety.
Other factors that may contribute are:
- overuse of laxatives; and
- the side effects of medication, especially strong pain killers.
Causes of persisting constipation, often associated with other symptoms are:
- bowel blocked by a growth or narrowing (tumour or bowel obstruction); and
- a muscle problem causing the bowel to be slowor the anal muscle (anal sphincter) does not relax when you are having a bowel motion (obstructed defecation)
How is Constipation treated?
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle including:
- a low fat/high fibre diet;
- regular fluid intake; and
- regular exercise
Fibre supplements and occasionally laxatives may also be required.