What is Constipation?

There are several ways to describe constipation. Some people just can't go very often or don't feel "done" when they do. Other people have to strain (which can lead to all kinds of other problems, mostly one that rhymes with "Altoids." How's that for a mental image?) The easiest definition is 3 of fewer bowel movements every week, with one or fewer qualifying as severe constipation.

Why Does It Happen?

Essentially, a person becomes constipated when the food they've digested gets slowed down in their colon. There are plenty of reasons for this to happen - some pretty natural, some a bigger issue. Here are just a few:

  • Diet. Consuming plenty of fiber is the most important thing for you to do if you want to stay regular. Most people can get by just eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, but some people find that they need to supplement that with things like Metamucil and Benefiber. If you consistently have a problem, it might be a good idea to look into a something like this, whether it's yogurt or cereal or giant tablet.

  • Habit. Except in rare circumstances, bowel movements are voluntary. That means that, although our body gives us urges to go, we can ignore them. And if we ignore them too often, our body will assume we don't need that urge and stop giving it to us, making it harder to go regularly.

  • Medications. There are quite a few medications that can throw off your regularity, including anti-depressants, painkillers with codeine, some antacids, etc. The fact is that we put all kinds of chemicals in our body, and sometimes that can throw if off its game.

  • Too-frequent use of laxatives. Using laxatives instead of fiber supplements to maintain regularity can have the opposite effect over time. The same is true of people who try to use laxatives to lose weight. Instead of working as they are intended, they begin to actually make it less possible to go.
  • How Do I Treat It?

    Except for severe cases, most cases of constipation are fairly easy to treat. If the case is abnormal or severe, see your doctor, but if eating more fiber isn't enough to fix things right away, here of some of the options available to you.

  • Lubricant laxatives contain mineral oil and help to get things sliding through the way they should be.

  • Stool Softeners help water penetrate the stool, making it soft and easier to pass.
  • Stimulant laxatives. help the muscles in the small intestine to clear themselves out.
  • Enemas and Suppositories help to clear the way to get everything out. They shouldn't be used for run of the mill constipation - it should be a pretty big deal.
  • These certainly aren't the only available options, but for most minor cases, they should help to clear things up. If they don't, it might be a good time to talk to a doctor about what else you can be doing.