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Constipation

Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints.  It is a complaint of the patient and not a disease.

Constipation has different meanings to different individuals.
Most commonly, it refers to infrequent bowel movements, but it may also
refer to a decrease in the volume or weight of stool, the need to strain
to have a bowel movement, a sense of incomplete evacuation, or the need for enemas,
suppositories or laxatives in order to maintain regularity of bowel movement.
For most people, it is normal for bowel movements to occur from three times
a day to three times a week; other people may go a week or more without
experiencing discomfort or harmful effects. However, it is defined
as the passage of small amounts of hard, dry stool, usually fewer
than three times a week. People who are constipated may find it difficult
and painful to have a bowel movement. Other symptoms of constipation
include bloating, uncomfortable feeling, and sluggishness.

Causes
It is frequently caused by a disturbance of the large intestine function. The normal functions of the colon are to:
•Remove water from the waste material that passes from the small intestine into the colon
•Serve as a storage area for waste material
•Help move and expel stool from the body.

Constipation may occur because:

•Too much water is removed by the colon, causing dry or hard stools
•Stool moves too slowly through the colon or
•The patient is unable to expel stools.

Common causes of constipation are:

•Not enough fibre in the diet. The most common cause of constipation is a diet low in fibre.

A low-fibre diet is an important cause for constipation among older adults as they prefer
to eat soft foods that are processed and low in fibre because of difficulties in chewing or swallowing.

Digestive Disturbances

Not enough liquids. Liquids add fluid to the colon, making bowel
contents softer and easier to pass. Liquids that contain caffeine,
such as coffee and cola drinks, and alcohol have a dehydrating
effect by increasing urine formation.

Lack of exercise. Lack of exercise can lead to constipation.
Medications. Some medications can cause constipation. They
include:

•Pain medications (especially narcotics)
•Antacids that contain aluminium and calcium
•Blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers)
•Antiparkinson drugs
•Antispasmodics (drugs to reduce pain in the abdomen)
•Antidepressants (mood elevating drugs)
•Iron supplements (medications to increase haemoglobin in the blood)
•Diuretics (drugs to increase urine formation)
•Anticonvulsants (drugs used to treat fits)

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