Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems. Generally, constipation is defined as having less than three bowel movements in a week. However, you may have a daily bowel movement but can still be constipated. Other symptoms of constipation include hard stools, excessive straining for defecation, or feeling of incomplete defecation.
Constipation can occur due to bowel motility problem or obstruction. Slow bowels may be due to diabetes, thyroid problems, poor diet or certain medications. Bowel obstruction may be secondary to colon cancer. In many patients, slow bowel or constipation occur without a secondary cause, and this is referred to as chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC).
In the absence of any alarm or serious symptoms, you can try a few things to improve constipation:
- Eat a high fiber diet (fruits, vegetable, prune juice, cereal)
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take over-the-counter laxatives and stool softeners
Evaluation by a gastroenterologist is recommended if you have no improvement with above measures or if you notice any alarm symptoms such as:
- Blood in stool or rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain or severe bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Age above 50 years
- Family history of colon cancer
- Family history of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis
Your GI doctor may recommend further work up including colonoscopy to rule out serious conditions such as bowel obstruction or colon cancer. Your doctor may also prescribe laxatives to improve your symptoms and quality of life.
If you have any questions, please contact us to schedule a consultation and discuss your symptoms.