A few years ago, it would have been considered impolite to discuss subjects like constipation in public. However, as I write this article, playing on the television in the background is a commercial about the laxative Ducalax. While I am surprised to see these commercials, I am as equally surprised to discover some of the lesser known causes of constipation.
Constipation is the condition of bowels where the feces are dry and hardened and bowel evacuation is typically three times or fewer per week and difficult. The most common cause of constipation is not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water. Seven causes of constipation that may not be widely known are:
Side effects of medications
One of the most controversial commercials of Super Bowl 50 was one about a middle-aged man who was constipated. The drug company created the ad to bring awareness to the condition known as opioid-induced constipation. Some people were upset because the ad focused on constipation and not drug addiction. The Super Bowl commercial highlights the problem with certain medications and constipation. Some of the medicines are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), narcotics, antacids containing aluminum and calcium carbonate. Others include antidepressants, sedatives, iron supplements, diuretics, and calcium-channel blockers.
Today, it appears that no longer is the case as we watch hilarious television commercials about Fiber One where the main character is a pregnant man who is expecting to deliver soon. The commercial seems to make an unspoken comparison between the delivery of a baby and the delivery of food through the digestive system. Of course, male pregnancy as depicted in the Fiber One commercial is not possible, but hormonal changes and the weight of the uterus pushing on the intestine of a pregnant woman can cause constipation. Women should discuss this problem with their doctors if the problem persists.
Using too many laxatives
Laxatives are taken to help relieve the symptoms of constipation, but may cause constipation if taken for long periods of time. Over a period, the body could build of a tolerance for the laxative and it does have the same effect.
Travel or other change in daily routine
When a person travels they don’t normally stick to their regular routines. The changes in diet and that daily routine can contribute to constipation.
Lack of exercise
Exercise affects our ability to maintain good health in many ways. When a person exercises for at least 30 minutes a day, it causes the stimulation of the intestines, which can help with maintaining regular bowel movements.
There are many people who are too embarrassed or afraid use a public restroom. Therefore, they ignore or resist the urge to have a bowel movement. Withholding the stool can lead to constipation.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
The Super Bowl commercial and others highlight some of the surprising lesser known causes of constipation. Constipation is not just caused due to a lack of fiber in a person’s diet. The next time you are feeling bloated, stopped up and unable to get relief from eliminating waste, consider that it may be due to constipation caused by one of these seven lesser known reasons.
After eating, sometimes the uncomfortable full or tight feeling is not just the food itself. There are also a lot of digestive gasses involved in this bloating including carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, methane, or sulfur. This does not always occur; it largely depends on how much we eat and what we eat. When it does occur, the only ways to get rid of it is by releasing these digestive gasses via burping or farting. Although these things can be embarrassing in social situations, staying bloated is both uncomfortable, can be embarrassing in itself, and can get unhealthy.
One way to avoid it is knowing your own personal trigger foods that usually result in bloating. But that is not the only precautionary measure to take. There are others. First, eat everything in moderation. Eating too much of anything can give you bloating. Two, eat slowly since eating quickly causes you to swallow more gas-producing air. Three, opt for low-fat, non-greasy foods when it is available. This is also good for just staying healthy and losing extra pounds. Four, avoid too much high fiber food. Although fiber is actually a very good thing for physical health and definitely should remain a part of your diet, too much often triggers bloating.
This is largely because the small intestine is unable to digest fiber and creates extra gasses in the effort. So if you are eating something with fiber-which is a very good thing-just make sure not to overdo it Five, avoid sugary deserts, drinks, and snacks. Like fiber, sugar foods have difficulty being digested and the intense effort results in lots of gas. However, unlike fiber, sugary foods aren’t necessary and can be very unhealthy anyway. Six, it might be a good idea to partake of some of the available over-the-counter bloating-reducing medications like Beano, Gas-X, or Mylanta Gas.
However, sometimes none of this stuff will not work one bit if the bloating problem has nothing to do with food. Sometimes it can take place due to menstrual changes or a medical problem such as colon cancer, bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, or any number of any other physical maladies. That is why if you are experiencing bloating suddenly nearly all of the time, you should get a doctor involved ASAP. If the bloating is accompanied by abdominal pain, blood in your stools, diarrhea, or vomiting, don’t wait to see if the bloating lingers. Contact your doctor immediately. Bloating can also be induced by smoking. If you are seeking to reduce bloating episodes and are a smoker, do what you can by stopping this bad habit.
Most spicy hot foods such as chili peppers, habaneros and cayenne peppers contain capsaicin, which is not broken down and digested, especially in the seeds, and that is what burns your entire digestive tract from when it first enters your mouth until it leaves.
Capsaicin stimulates the lining of the stomach to produce more of its natural juices to protect itself against the capsaicin. This is actually good, because this process kills the bacteria in the stomach would could cause disorders of your bowels. However, it is painful for people who already have ulcers. (Contrary to the prevailing myths, spicy foods do not cause ulcers. That culprit is a bacteria named Helicobacter pylori. However, spicy foods do make ulcers hurt worse.)
Capsaicin does irritate the linings of the small and large intestines where food goes after leaving the stomach. For many people, especially those who often eat hot spicy foods and who therefore have forced their alimentary canals to adapt to the stress, the irritation is minor and they don’t even notice. But other people, especially those who don’t often eat spicy hot foods, are sensitive to it. The body reacts to the irritation by sending extra water to the intestine to prevent damage to the lining. Also, the irritated intestinal lining moves the food along faster than usual, resulting in diarrhea. There is no medical evidence that eating capsaicin does permanent injury to intestinal linings. The capsaicin continues to irritate sensitive inner tissue all the way through the end, so it continues to burn even as someone is eliminating it.
People who continue to have the problem may be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. They suffer from loose stool, bloating and abdominal pain when they eat hot foods, plus dairy, caffeine, and fatty and oily foods.
There are many ways to reduce the gastrointestinal discomfort of eating spicy foods. If people drink a glass of water before eating, that will help dilute the juices in the stomach.
Dairy foods help to neutralize the capsaicin. Therefore, drinking milk or eating yogurt, curd, ghee, buttermilk, sour cream or ice cream after eating the hot foods can help prevent diarrhea. However, people who are lactose intolerant should not consume any product containing milk. Consuming coconut milk, which is common in Thai food, can also help neutralize capsaicin. Eating rice gruel or bread along with the hot spice should also alleviate its impact on the digestive system.
When constipation strikes many people turn to medications for relief. There are a variety of options available and knowing a bit about each can help determine which to use.
These medications work by bulking up your stool. They do this by absorbing fluid from your intestines, creating a bulkier stool. This in turn causes the bowel to contract in order to push out the stool. It is imperative to take this medication with water otherwise it can lead to a blockage. Some side effects of this medication include bloating and abdominal pain.
These medications cause the stool to retain more water, which in turn makes the stool softer and easier to pass. These can take a few days to work so will not offer immediate relief. They can cause dehydration and mineral imbalance so certain people should not take them. These may also lead to gas and bloating.
These medications help mix more water from the intestines into the stools, making them easier to pass. These are often used for people who should not strain during bowel movements. Side effects can include stomach cramping and diarrhea.
These help the stool move more easily through the intestines by lubricating the surface of the stool. This also makes the stool easier to pass. The most common form is mineral oil, which is gentler than alternatives, although it should not be used for an extended period of time.
These are generally reserved for those with severe constipation and work by causing the intestine to contract, thus pushing the stool out. Side effects can include irritation, cramping and upset of the stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.
There are two common prescription medications that both help to draw water into your intestines, making stools softer and easier to pass. They also increase the frequency of stools and can decrease abdominal pain. See your doctor for further information.