Prior to discussing chronic constipation, check out this brief overview on the symptoms of constipation.
According to National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), the clinical definition of constipation (common, not chronic) is having any two of the following symptoms for at least 12 weeks—not always consecutive—in the previous 12 months :
- Straining during bowel movements
- Lumpy or hard stool
- Sensation of incomplete evacuation
- Sensation of anorectal blockage/obstruction
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
In my professional opinion, in order to be diagnosed with constipation, you must have at least two of the following symptoms for at least 3 months.
- Hard or pellet-like stools at least 25% of the time
- Straining with bowel movements at least 25% of the time
- Feeling that you dion’t empty your bowels at least 25% of the time
- Fewer than 7 bowel movements per week
When you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms for a longer period of time, chances are you may have chronic constipation. The discomfort and pains of chronic constipation itself can be debilitating! In the event you are seriously constipated, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of your natural health care practitioner. Together you can pinpoint the causes of your constipation and choose the best remedial options available.
Symptoms of Chronic Constipation
The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Chronic Constipation Task Force defines chronic constipation as “a symptom-based disorder characterized by unsatisfactory defecation—infrequent stool or difficult stool passage, including straining, incomplete evacuation, hard/lumpy stool, increased time to passing stool, use of manual maneuvers, or sense of difficulty passing stool.”
Symptoms include straining, a sense of difficulty passing stool, incomplete evacuation, hard or lumpy stools, prolonged time to pass stool, or need for manual maneuvers to pass stool. Furthermore, chronic constipation is defined as the presence of these symptoms for at least 3 months.
It is estimated that around 30% of Americans suffer from chronic constipation according to medical statistics. NDDIC reports that more than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for 2.5 million physician visits a year. Based on my experience, I feel that these numbers are low. I estimate one out of every three people over the age of 30 suffer from constipation on a weekly basis.
List of Other Symptoms Associated with Chronic Constipation:
- Excessive straining while passing bowels
- Abnormally hard stool
- Pain while passing bowel
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Bloated feeling
- Abdominal discomfort
Causes of Chronic Constipation
It’s always wise to take proactive measures to prevent yourself from becoming constipated. But, if you find yourself not getting any relief, it will quickly escalate to an aggravated level of chronic constipation. Below are a few commmon causes of constipation.
1. Unbalanced Diet (dehydrating fluids and low fiber foods)
Foods that cause constipation, when consumed excessively, can lead to chronic constipation and possibly worse. Examples of constipating foods are:
- Refined and Processed Foods
- Fried Foods, Fatty Meat, and Fast Foods
- High Sugar, Caffeinated, Carbonated, Non-Nutritional Fluids
- Dairy Products
Certain medications can cause constipation, including analgesics (Codeine, Demerol), opiates (morphine), calcium-containing antacids (tums), anticholinergic agents (Librax, belladonna), anticonvulsants (Dilantin), anti-depressants (Tricyclics), iron and calcium supplements, laxatives, pain medications, antispasmodics and diuretics. Be sure to read the side effects on labels.
3. Inactivity and Lack of Exercise
Staying active is one of the best ways to prevent and relieve constipation. On the flip side, if you don’t follow a frequent exercise routine, it’s possible that you can become constipated. It’s as simple as taking more walks throughout the day or parking at the back of the lot. No matter what you choose to do, the more you stay active, the easier it is for your bowels to do its job.
4. Altered Bowel Habits
Holding in bowel movements or just ignoring the urge to go, is one of the most common causes of constipation. Holding it in every once in awhile won’t cause any long-term side effects, but when you do ignore the urge to go on a frequent basis, you may be causing a bit of a traffic jam in your intestinal tract. Other changes in bowel habits may be attributed to a high use of enemas or laxatives. These may damage the intestinal tract and make it more difficult to have a bowel movement.
Again, if you don’t find a way to reduce your daily stress and persist in excessive worrying over finances, relationships, health, jobs, and so forth, you may end up experiencing chronic constipation. We all encounter stress throughout our day. We also all react to stress differently. Getting the stress relief we all need before it becomes a compounded problem is what is sometimes difficult to do.
Although constipation is not a disease, take its symptoms seriously by taking proactive measures to relieve yourself of regular constipation before it escalates to “chronic” constipation.
- Eat More Foods High in Fiber – By increasing your intake of live foods high in fiber, you can greatly reduce your chances of developing constipation and other colon related problems.
- Drink Nutritional Fluids – Purified water (8 glasses a day), green tea, organic / home-made fruit juices. When drinking water, be sure to drink purified water NOT tap water!
- Exercise Regularly – the more you move, the more your bowels will move.
- Stress Less – when was the last time you took some time off and did something you enjoy like getting a massage, camping, painting or dancing?
- Take a Probiotic Supplement – Probiotics will help introduce beneficial bacteria to your colon, which will help aid digestion.
If you are experiencing occasional constipation, you can try taking an oxygen-based intestinal cleanser like Oxy-Powder to help keep your bowels moving regularly.
Friendly Reminder: In the event you are suffering from chronic constipation, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of your natural healthcare practitioner for the best possible remedial options. Consider journaling your symptoms daily for the course of three months. The more you write down, the easier it will be for your doctor to provide you with an accurate diagnosis, accompanied by solutions.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Constipation. NIH Publication No. 07-2754. 2007 July.
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