When you’ve gotta go, you gotta go…until you’ve gotta go and can’t. Constipation is one of those problems that we all experience but few of us ever want to talk about. Nobody wants to admit that they’re constipated. Few of us even want to admit that we use the bathroom at all! Even so, most of us will experience at least a few problems in that area over our lifetimes, so let’s take some time now to talk about it.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a condition in which a person has trouble emptying their bowels. For whatever reason, when you try to use the bathroom–no matter how much you want that visit to be successful–nothing really moves. It is important to understand, however, that the lack of bowel movement is not the only sign that you’re dealing with constipation. Other symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain and/or swelling, hardened or small stools and having to strain (along with feeling like you didn’t “get everything out”) are also important symptoms of the condition.
What Causes Constipation?
There are a lot of factors to consider when trying to figure out the root cause of a person’s constipation. The literal reason is that a person’s stool has hardened, making it harder to pass. But what caused that hardening in the first place? Everything from stress to medications to consuming too many dairy products to actual physical problems like cancer or thyroid conditions can contribute to a person’s constipation.
Before you panic and assume you have cancer, however, think about your recent history in the bathroom. Has your ability to move your bowels been fine until now? If the problem is new, you might simply try changing your diet, getting more exercise, etc (we’ll talk more about this later). If it recurs or has been a problem for a while, you should pay a visit to your doctor and get a thorough checkup and evaluation.
Whatever you do, though, don’t simply try to force your bowels to move. Forcing a bowel movement by straining can exacerbate the condition and cause other problems like hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are what happens when veins inside your rectum and anus become inflamed. While, often, this inflammation occurs inside the rectum and anus–leading to extensive and difficult-to-treat pain, sometimes they become so inflamed that they cause the skin around the outside of the anus to swell, making even simple acts like sitting down painful.
It is important to treat your hemorrhoids right away. Most of the time you can treat them using over the counter, natural hemorrhoids treatment products. If they become severe, however, you will need to seek professional medical help for treating them.
Treating Constipation: Getting Yourself Moving Again
As we mentioned before, if your constipation is relatively new or doesn’t occur very often, it is reasonable to assume that it is caused by something in your life that you can fix yourself. Try some of the following to help alleviate the problem:
Move around. Get up and go for a walk or a run. Sometimes constipation can happen because our lives have become more sedentary. Regular exercise gets the blood flowing which helps keep the bowels moving properly.
Drink more water (unless advised otherwise by your doctor). Dehydration can lead to the hardening of stools. Drinking an extra couple of glasses of water for a few days can help loosen things back up.
Prunes are your friend. So is bran. Prunes and bran both contain compounds that can “jump start” a backed up system and have a natural laxative effect. The same is true of fruits and vegetables, so make sure you’re getting enough of those in your daily diet.
If the natural methods aren’t working, you might consider trying a mild laxative that you can buy over the counter. It is important, however, that you do not depend on these laxatives to prevent chronic constipation. Remember, if the problem persists, you need to see your doctor.
Ultimately, constipation is nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to all of us sooner or later!