By definition, constipation is simply infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools. It is a very common condition, which effects most people at some time during their life.
The good news is that most cases of constipation are temporary and are alleviated with simple lifestyle modifications. Due to their lifestyle and job demands, professional truck drivers are more prone to developing this condition. Normal frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person. However, passing less than three stools a week is a good indication that you may be experiencing constipation. Other symptoms of constipation include: hard and dry stool; incomplete evacuation after having a bowel movement; and excessive straining during bowel movements. The most common cause of constipation is slowly moving stool through the digestive tract. This causes the stool to become hard and dry. There are several factors that can cause an intestinal slowdown which include inadequate fluid or dehydration, low fiber diet, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement and lack of physical activity.
Medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease may also cause constipation. In rare cases, constipation may occur as a result of a more serious medical condition such as cancer or autoimmune diseases.
It is important to seek medical attention if you experience unexplained constipation or change in bowel habits that last longer than three weeks. Also see your doctor if you experience intense abdominal pain, blood in your stool, rectal pain or unexplained weight loss. In most cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose your constipation by taking a detailed medical history and performing a physical examination. More sophisticated diagnostic testing such as barium enema X-ray and abdominal ultrasound are usually reserved for severe cases.
The treatment of constipation is usually very simple. Changes in diet and lifestyle can reduce and often alleviate the condition. Firstly, eat a diet that is high in fiber as it helps your body form soft bulky stool. It is recommended that you eat at least 20-35 grams of fiber each day. Good sources of fiber include beans, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to reduce your intake of meats and processed foods. Physical activity and adequate fluid intake are also important in stimulating intestinal activity. Finally, do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
If diet and lifestyle modifications are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend some form of laxative. There are several types, which include fiber supplements, stimulants, stool softeners and osmotics. All of which are designed to treat the underlying causes of your constipation.
Alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture may also be helpful in the treatment of constipation. However, make sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any of these therapies.
In most cases constipation is more of an annoyance than a serious medical condition. However, left untreated, it may lead to other more serious physical aliments.