Yesterday I spoke of normal bowel function, so today I will focus on constipation and impaction – or not normal bowel function. Let’s begin by looking at constipation.
Constipation is when bowel movements occur with less and less frequency and the actual stool is hard, dry and difficult to pass. While many think that constipation is the result of illness or digestive disorder, this is not typically accurate. More often than not, constipation is the result of new or long-standing medications, poor diet, lifestyle choices, and a handful of other factors that cause the stool to harden or that interferes with the stool’s ability to pass through the digestive tract comfortably.
According to drugs.com, some of these factors include:
- A diet low in fiber—You need about 25 grams to 30 grams of fiber every day to soften the stool and encourage proper bowel function. Most American diets contain less than half that amount.
- Inadequate fluid intake— To help prevent stools from becoming dry and hard, your daily diet should include at least six to eight “servings” of water. “Servings” can include full glasses of milk, juice and other beverages, but you also can count the water content in fruits, soups, stews and solid foods.
- A sedentary lifestyle— Because regular exercise is necessary to promote normal muscle contractions in the bowel wall, having a sedentary job or rarely exercising puts you at high risk of constipation.
- Ignoring the urge to defecate— If you have your bowel movements right after you feel an urge to defecate, this reinforces a normal nerve reflex that helps you to pass stool easily. Sometimes, because of a busy schedule or limited access to restrooms, a person ignores the urge to defecate. If you repeatedly postpone bathroom trips until a more convenient time, this can lead to constipation problems.
- Travel and scheduling factors— Travel can promote constipation by changing your diet, interfering with the normal timing of your meals, and limiting your access to restrooms.
- Laxative overuse— Long-term, regular use of laxatives can teach your bowel to rely on these medicines for help with bowel movements. Eventually, a laxative habit can contribute to your constipation, making you dependent upon continued laxative use.
- A side effect of medications— Constipation is a side effect of many prescription and nonprescription medications. Common problem medicines include iron supplements and vitamins that contain iron;calcium supplements; antacids that contain aluminum; antidepressants; drugs to treat schizophrenia or hallucinations; narcotic pain killers; general anesthesia; diuretics; muscle relaxants; and certain prescription drugs used to treat seizure disorders, Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, and hypertension.
- Local pain or discomfort around the anus— An anal fissure or hemorrhoids can make bowel movements painful or uncomfortable. (An anal fissure is a small tear in the skin around the anus, and a hemorrhoid is a bulge from a vein in the anus.) To avoid pain, a person with one of these problems sometimes resists the urge to defecate. This can cause symptoms of constipation.
Once again, by knowing all of this, studying it, and applying the concepts to your clients everyday lifestyle, you are showing your clients your abilities and the fact that With Age Comes Respect.