Definition: It is a medical condition in which the number of bowel movements is reduced to the extent that stools come out hard and dry and in much smaller quantities than expected. According to American and British medical guidelines, the patient is diagnosed with constipation if the number of bowel movements is less than 3 times a week.
It is worth noting that the number of times one goes to the toilet in order to pass stool varies greatly from one person to another, but there is an average rate, as the number ranges from 3 times a day to 3 times a week, and the complaint of constipation is one of the most common symptoms among the symptoms of the digestive system.
How common is constipation and at what age?
Constipation is classified as one of the most common symptoms of digestive disorders. In a country such as the United States of America, 2.5 million people suffer from constipation annually.
As for age, constipation can occur in all ages (at least once), while chronic constipation is more prevalent in the elderly, and it has several factors that contribute to its occurrence, including:
- Age: the elderly tend to exert less movement and less activity, and thus the rates of metabolism in their bodies decrease, and the strength of muscle contraction, including smooth muscles in the digestive system, is weakened, and consequently constipation occurs.
- Gender: Women are more likely to suffer from constipation than men, especially women during pregnancy and the postpartum period due to hormonal changes. in addition to that during pregnancy the weight of the fetus puts pressure on the intestines, which slows its movement.
- The nature of food: Eating foods rich in fiber reduces the incidence of constipation, and people who eat small amounts of fiber and vegetables in their daily food are more prone to constipation.
How does constipation occur?
What are the causes of constipation?
- Consuming foods low in fiber
- Not drinking enough water (dehydration)
- Lack of exercise
- A stagnant lifestyle and lack of physical activity
- Constant change in the daily routine, such as constantly changing the times of the main meals, or changing the bedtime or traveling a lot.
- Eating large amounts of dairy products (milk and cheese)
- Stress and stress
- Resisting the urge, which means not going to the toilet when feeling the urge to defecate
- Narcotic pain relievers such as tramadol, codeine, and oxycodone
- Non-steroidal pain relievers such as ibuprofen, ketolac and voltaren
- Antidepressants, especially serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as "Cipralex", "Joy Box", "Dapoxetine" and others
- Antacids such as Rani effervescents and others
- Iron tablets that are used to treat anemia
- Anti-allergic drugs such as Telfast, Zyrtec, Aureus, and others
- Certain types of high blood pressure medications, such as diltiazem and Bistol
- Medications for mental illness (psychosis), such as clozapine and olanzapine
- Anti-epileptic drugs such as gabapentin and phenytoin
- Medications for nausea and vomiting, such as Zofran and Ondalenz
- Endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, high blood calcium and high blood urea
- colorectal cancer
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Weakness of the pelvic muscles, whose function is to squeeze the colon to expel stool
- Parkinson's Disease
- Spinal injuries
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Brain strokes and spinal cord diseases
- Lazy bowel syndrome, where the force of contraction of the muscles of the colon is weakened
- Intestinal obstruction
- Congenital defects in the colon, such as fistula, atresia, intussusception, and children born with obstruction of the anus
- Autoimmune diseases that affect more than one organ in the body, such as lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, and amyloidosis
What are the symptoms of constipation?
- The patient goes to the toilet to pass stool less than three times a week
- Stools are dry, hard, and large lumps
- The patient feels pain and difficulty when passing stool
- Constant aches and pains with stomach and abdominal cramps
- feeling nauseous
- Every time he goes to the toilet, he feels like he hasn't completely emptied his bowels
When to see a doctor, and what to expect?
- Do you suffer from other acute or chronic diseases?
- Have you noticed a remarkable decrease or increase in your weight recently?
- Have you had surgery in any parts of the digestive system before?
- Have you had a gastroscopy or GI endoscopy before?
- What medications do you take? whether for constipation or for any other disease
- Does anyone in your family suffer from constipation or gastrointestinal tumors such as colon cancer?
- How many times do you go to the toilt for defecation per week?
- How does stool look and how is its consistency in the last couple of weeks?
- Have you noticed blood or a dark red color in your stool?
- What is your diet and your favorite foods?
- Do you make any kind of exercise?
Does the doctor order tests to diagnose the cause of constipation?
- Laboratory tests: such as thyroid function tests if hypothyroidism is suspected, complete blood count analysis to exclude anemia, blood sugar and stool analysis.
- Diagnostic x-rays: In some cases, the doctor may order a CT scan or an MRI.
- Gastrointestinal endoscopy: In cases where the doctor suspects the presence of a tumor or inflammation in the colon, the patient is asked to perform a colonoscopy, and a sample is taken and examined in a pathology lab.
- Contrast: such as a barium x-ray.
- Drink an extra 3-4 cups of water daily
- Add plenty of vegetables that contain large amounts of fiber to your food
- Avoid drinks that can cause dehydration, such as alcohol
- Eat more prunes and bran grains
- Avoid foods that contain large amounts of fat, such as fatty meats, eggs, and cheese
- Commit to exercising for at least half an hour a day, 5 days a week
- [Important] Raising the feet off the ground while sitting on the toilet helps emptying the entire colon of stool and thus treats constipation and prevents its recurrence (the position as in the picture), knowing that the squatting pots in the old (baladi) toilets is the best for emptying the intestines.
|The best position to empty the colon and prevent constipation|
- You can add ready-made canned fibers to food
- If the above measures fail, treatment with laxatives (stool softener) can be started, whether tablets (pills) or drops such as "Minalax" or "Picolax", which is a fast-acting laxative drug for constipation, taking care not to use laxatives for more than two weeks without consulting a doctor.
- Do not read or use a mobile phone while you are in the toilet to pass stool.
What foods that help treat and prevent constipation?
|Food category||Moderate amount of fibers||High amount of fibers|
|Bread||Brown bread made from wheat|
White bran bread
Bread made of corn flour
Raisin Bran (Corn Flakes)
Wheat with milk
|All types of bran contain large amounts of fiber||Like corn bran and barley|
Cabbage and cauliflower
carrots and corn
Peas and green beans
Pumpkin and walnut
Spinach, potatoes with peel and avocado
mango and plum
Orange, tangerine and guava
kiwi and strawberry
Raspberries and raisins
|Cooked peaches and dried figs|
|Meat alternatives||Peanut Butter|
When should you visit a doctor?
- If constipation occurs for the first time and without predisposing factors
- If blood or red streaks appear in the urine
- If you notice your weight suddenly dropping
- If you have severe abdominal pain with a bowel movement or when defecating
- If constipation persists for more than three weeks