Q: What is constipation?
A: Constipation is difficulty or inability to perform bowel movements. Though many people experience occasional bouts of constipation, chronic constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week over several months. In serious cases, a person may struggle to pass a single stool for several weeks, interfering with their daily lives and causing severe pain and discomfort.
Q: What are the signs of constipation?
A: Chronic constipation is defined as experiencing two or more of the following symptoms over the past three months:
Q: What causes constipation?
A: There are many potential causes of constipation, and we recommend discussing your condition with Dr. Davidson to identify which ones may be influencing your condition. Constipation commonly occurs when stool becomes hard and dry after it fails to absorb moisture or takes too long to move through the rectum. Dehydration can make constipation worse, since the digestive system needs water as a lubricant. Without water, stool takes longer to pass through your system.
There may also be a physical blockage in your colon, or the nerves and muscles that control the colon or rectum may be damaged. Conditions that alter the balance of hormones in your body, like diabetes or pregnancy, also affect constipation.
Q: What can I do at home to prevent constipation?
A: Effective treatments for constipation always start with diet and lifestyle changes. Gradually increase your fiber intake to the recommended daily amount of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads. Fiber increases the bulk of your stool, which makes it move faster through the rectum. A sudden change in your fiber intake can cause bloating and gas, so work up to the new amount over several weeks.
Daily exercise will strengthen the muscles involved in your digestive system. Also, placing yourself on a regular schedule of bowel movements not only ensures that your stool remains consistent, but decreases the stress of using the bathroom. Respond to the urge to have a bowel movement, and take all the time you need.
Q: What about constipation medications or surgeries?
A: Medications and surgeries are only recommended if diet and lifestyle changes are ineffective. There are many over-the-counter medications that can be helpful, like fiber supplements (Metamucil, Citrucel), stimulants, and lubricants. Please note that although laxatives, stool softeners, and enemas induce bowel movements, they should not be used as a long-term solution. Surgery is an option if your constipation is caused by rectal blockage or other physical damage.
Q: How can I contact Dr. Davidson?
A: If you are troubled by constipation, don’t hesitate to get the proper treatment. Call us at (888) 888-8888 for an immediate consultation. Let Los Angeles gastroenterologist, Dr. Davidson get you the help you need.