Constipation is a medical condition characterized by the body’s inability to empty the bowels and it is often linked with hardened feces. Severe constipation also includes obstipation, along with fecal impaction, which can lead to bowel obstruction.
Constipation can be caused by a low fiber diet, lack of water intake, and lack of exercise, according to Health. The publication added that the condition also has less known causes, such as certain medications and serious medical conditions. Other causes of constipation include intake of painkillers or narcotics; antacids; calcium and iron supplements; laxative abuse; excessive dairy products; antidepressants; antihistamines; antihypertensives; chocolates; hypothyroidism, or inactivity of the thyroid gland; inflammatory bowel disease; depression; pregnancy; and childbirth itself.
According to Medicine Net, the evaluation for constipation should be completed when the constipation was of abrupt onset, worsening, severe, or linked with other bothersome symptoms like weight loss or non-responsiveness to safe, simple, and efficient management. It may also include past and present medical history, physical examination, blood check-up, abdominal X-ray, colonic transit studies, barium enema, anorectal motility studies, defecography, and colonic motility studies, among others.
The common symptoms of constipation includes few or difficulty in bowel movements, straining during defecation, having small or hard stools, a sense that everything did not come out, swollen or abdominal pain, and vomiting, as per Web MD.
The prime objective of constipation management focuses on at least one bowel movement every two to three days without straining. The actual management includes dietary fiber intake, adequate fluid intake, and regular exercise. Pharmacological and operative management include administration of non-stimulant and stimulant laxatives, suppositories, enemas, prescription medications, and surgery. A stool softener can be used; however, they should not be used for more than 14 days without informing the medical doctor. Biofeedback training may also be part of the management plan.
To relieve constipation, one should drink two to four extra glasses of per day, according to Web MD. This can be done, unless the physician instructed the person to limit fluids for some medical reasons. Warm liquids are preferred, particularly in the morning. Since constipation also results from lack of dietary fiber, one should also incorporate fruits and vegetables to the diet.
One may also add prunes to the diet, aside from fruits and vegetables. According to Reader’s Digest, prunes, also known as dried plums, serve as mild laxative. It counters constipation by stimulating muscles to push waste through the large intestines. The publication added that five prunes are equivalent to three grams of fiber. Prune juice is rich in fiber and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, turning its efficiency similar to a laboratory-prepared laxative.
Berries are some of the foods one can eat to relieve constipation. In his interview with Everyday Health, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and St. Louis University Medical School Missouri internal medicine associate professor Charlene Prather said that raspberries and blackberries were examples of fruits that have a good amount of fiber. She also mentioned that a half-cup of strawberries is equivalent to two grams of fiber, adding that the same size serving of blackberries provides 3.8 grams while the raspberry servings give four grams. It has also been added that berries are low in calories; thus, one may consume berries with breakfast cereal or a bowl of berries with low-fat whipped cream as a dessert.
If a person experiences prolonged constipation, stomach pain, presence of blood in the stools, or weight loss, he should seek immediate medical consult, as these may lead to complications like rectal prolapse or hemorrhoids.