Saturday, October 04, 2008

Stool flow interrupted

Regular bowel movement is the comfortable passage (without straining) of well-formed stools (neither too hard, nor too soft) once every day or every two to three days without the use of laxatives, or other interventions.

Bowel function is unique and varies from individual to individual. Some people move their bowels three times a day, others three times a week. But there are many who suffer from difficult bowel movement and become constipated.

For most of us, constipation is commonly caused by a lack of fibre in the diet. For others, it may result from repeatedly ignoring the urge to go and holding the stool in.

People who ignore the urge may eventually stop feeling it, which can lead to constipation.

Some people delay having a bowel movement because they do not want to use toilets outside the home. Others ignore the urge because of emotional stress or because they are too busy.

Children may postpone a bowel movement because of stressful toilet training or because they do not want to interrupt their play.

Generally, there are six factors leading to constipation:

Not enough liquids
Liquids like water and juice add fluid to the colon and bulk to the stool, making the stool softer and easier to pass. Without adequate fluid intake, stool becomes hard and constipation is more likely to occur.

Lack of exercise
Exercise and movement stimulate bowel activity and helps to maintain colon muscle tone. Lack of it can lead to constipation.

Pain medications (especially narcotics), antacids that contain aluminium, antidepressants, iron supplements and diuretics can slow the passage of bowel movements.

Irritable bowel syndrome
Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, have irregular bowel movements. Constipation and diarrhoea often alternate, and abdominal cramping, gassiness, and bloating are common complaints.

Changes in life or routine
During pregnancy, women may be constipated due to hormonal changes or the heavy uterus compressing the intestine. Ageing may also affect bowel regularity because of a slower metabolism results in less intestinal activity and muscle tone. In addition, travelling sometimes disrupts bowel movement due to a change in diet and not drinking enough water.

Abuse of laxatives
Serious abuse of stimulant laxatives, especially among older adults who are preoccupied with having a daily bowel movement, can lead to constipation and other complications.

Laxatives are usually prescribed by doctors only after considering the patient’s medical history, medications one may be taking, and other health conditions the patient may have.

Doctors prescribe laxatives either to solve a medical symptom or to prepare for a medical exam such as colonoscopy. However, it does not solve the root cause of the problem.

Laxatives can promote dependency especially when used long term. It can also cause imbalances in bodily fluids that may lead to other complications.

Over time, stimulant laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon and interfere with its natural ability to contract.

Six muscular actions play a part in fluid absorption, particle cohesion, stool formation, stool transit, and stool passage (defecation). If these muscles become weak, stool transit is slowed.

The colon can become insensitive, intestinal motivity can slow, normal processes fail, and chronic constipation can develop.

Excessive use may lead to abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, headaches, dehydration, weight loss and even damage to other organs.

Other reported side effects are confusion, irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, skin rash, unusual tiredness or weakness, belching, cramping, diarrhoea and nausea.

When it comes to choosing a detoxification product, one should avoid those with harsh laxatives such as senna leaves, cascara sagrada and ‘ma huang’.

Use of senna and sennosides come with a higher risk of water loss, which could easily be misconstrued as weight loss.

There are easier ways to get your bowel moving regularly. Moderate exercise is helpful for maintaining regularity and good health. Also respond when nature calls quickly as possible.

If you are not getting the urge, try going to the toilet 45 minutes after every meal. Get comfortable and gently massage your abdomen with your palm in a circular motion to encourage flow.

1 comment:

JK said...

whaoo!! dats good information, i didn't know lack of exercise contributes to constipation!


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