Constipation is a not an ailment people are too vocal about and for most it is a problem they experience for a short time with no lasting effects on health. For others, constipation can be a chronic condition which causes significant pain. Most cases of constipation are not caused by a specific condition, and it may be difficult to identify the exact cause.
However, there are several factors which can increase your chances of having constipation. These include the following:
- Not eating enough fibre
- A change in your routine or lifestyle
- Limited privacy when using the toilet
- Ignoring the urge to pass stools
- Immobility, lack of exercise
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Being under or overweight
- Anxiety or depression.
Sometimes, constipation may be a side effect of a medicine that you are taking. You should not stop taking your medication unless your GP specifically advises you to.
It can very rarely be a sign of an underlying condition. In adults such conditions include colon or rectal cancer, diabetes and underactive thyroid.
The first way that your GP will treat your constipation is by advising you about ways you can change your diet and lifestyle.
Increase your daily intake of fibre. High-fibre foods include fruit, vegetables, and cereals. Add some bulking agents, such as wheat bran, to your diet. These will help make your stools easier to pass.
Increase your fluid intake. It is best for you to drink water, and you should be drinking at least 1.2 litres (six-eight glasses) a day. Get more exercise by going for a daily walk or run.
If your constipation is causing you pain, or discomfort, you may want to take a painkilling medication such as paracetamol. Laxatives are a type of medicine that will help you to pass stools.
There are several different types of laxative and each one has a different effect on your digestive system.
If your baby is constipated but has not yet started to eat solid foods, give them extra water between their normal feeds. If you are using formula milk, make sure that you still make it as directed by the manufacturer -- do not dilute the mixture.
Try gently moving your baby's legs in a bicycling motion, or carefully massaging their tummy to help stimulate their bowels.