The Scoop on Poop (Part 2): Constipation

paper_art2Constipation. The dreaded poop enemy. Most people have experienced constipation at some point in their life. While it is often not serious, constipation remains a source of both pain and frustration.

What is constipation?

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent than normal. The frequency or time between bowel movements ranges from person to person. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement, however, is too long. After three days, stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass.

What causes constipation?

Constipation is a result of stool spending too much time in the colon. The colon absorbs too much water from the stool, making it hard and dry. This hard, dry stool is what makes the rectum muscles work overtime to push it out of the body.

Constipation’s infamous accomplices include:

  • A low fiber diet
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Lack of exercise
  • Travel or another change in routine
  • Eating large amounts of milk or cheese
  • Stress or resisting the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pregnancy
  • Neurologic disorders including spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Slow transit of the colon

How can I prevent an encounter with constipation?

Protecting yourself from a confrontation with this dreaded opponent include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber include: fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain breads, bran (eat bran cereal or add bran cereal to other foods like yogurt)
  • Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day
  • Exercising regularly
  • Moving your bowels when you feel the urge

What if constipation is extending his visit?

If you are experiencing constipation, there are a few ways to treat it.

  • Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day
  • Try warm liquids, especially in the morning
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your diet
  • Eat prunes and/or bran cereal
  • Add supplemental fiber to your diet (there are several types, such as Metamucil, Citrucel, and Benefiber).

If needed, using a mild stool softener or laxative can help you get your bowel movements flowing. Do not use laxatives for more than two weeks without calling your health care provider, as laxative overuse can aggravate your symptoms.

Should I call for back-up?

Should your battle with constipation continue, call your health care provider if:

  • Constipation is a new problem for you
  • You have blood in your stool
  • You are losing weight unintentionally
  • You have severe pain with bowel movements
  • Your constipation has lasted more than three weeks

Trouble pooping can be a real drag, but being educated can help prevent unnecessary pain.

 

Stay tuned for our final part of the “Scoop on Poop” blog series to hear about constipation’s alter ego: diarrhea.

 

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Sources:

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Constipation/hic_Constipation.aspx

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/

The Scoop on Poop (Part 1): Bloating

ImageWhat about poop could you possibly want to know? During my many years as a doctor, I frequently get asked about bloating. Bloating, however, it isn’t just a side effect that women experience during the premenstrual cycle. So men out there, this is for you too.

What is bloating?

Bloating refers to a sense of fullness in the upper abdomen. Often, bloating is the result of gas buildup in your intestines.

Bloating may be related to:

  • Overeating
  • Eating fatty foods (fat delays stomach emptying and can increase the sensation of fullness)
  • Soritbal foods (a sugar alcohol), often found in the form of artificial sweetners
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Smoking
  • Carbonated beverages

In addition, people who have had many operations, adhesions (scar tissue), or internal hernias may experience bloating or pain.

What if I am experiencing constant bloating?

If bloating is something you experience on a regular basis, consult your doctor. While the list above gives an overview of things that may cause temporary bloating, consistent bloating may be a sign of something more serious, such as:

  • A gastrointestinal infection such as irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterized by abdominal pain or cramping and changes in bowel function
  • Enzyme deficiency conditions such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance, in which the intestines aren’t able to digest and absorb certain components of food
  • Inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s or Colitis

How can I prevent bloating?

To reduce bloating, it may help to avoid or reduce the amount of gas-producing foods you eat. Many carbohydrates cause gas, and the following items are most the frequent offenders:

  • Baked Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cauliflower
  • Chewing gum
  • Fruits such as apples, peaches and pears
  • Hard candy
  • Lettuce
  • Sorbital foods

One of the easiest ways to reduce the feeling of bloating is by passing gas, which will clear your intestines of blockage. Or, you can always poop!

But what if you can’t poop? Stay tuned for part 2 of the “Scoop on Poop” series to hear about one of the most dreaded poop enemies: constipation.

For more tips and health news, follow us on:                                                                     Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MDcare4you                                                            Twitter: @mdcare4you

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gas-and-gas-pains/in-depth/gas-and-gas-pains/ART-20044739

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/gas_digestive/hic_gas.aspx

http://patients.gi.org/topics/belching-bloating-and-flatulence/