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Constipation: diagnostic test & lifestyle modifications

istock_000006390447xsmallDiagnostic tests

Most people with constipation do not need extensive testing and can be treated with changes in diet and exercise.

Extensive testing is usually reserved for people with severe symptoms, for those with sudden changes in number and consistency of bowel movements or blood in the stool, and for older adults.
• Colorectal transit study. This test shows how well food moves through the colon.  The patient swallows capsules containing small markers that are visible on an X-ray.  The movement of the markers through the colon is monitored with abdominal X-rays taken several times 3 to 7 days after the capsule is swallowed.

• Defecography. This is an X-ray of the anorectal area that evaluates completeness of stool elimination, identifies anorectal abnormalities, and evaluates rectal muscle contractions and relaxation.

• Barium enema X-ray. This examination involves viewing the rectum, colon and lower part of the intestine to locate any problems. This test may show intestinal obstruction.

• Sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy. An examination of the rectum and lower (sigmoid) colon is called sigmoidoscopy. An examination of the rectum and entire colon is called colonoscopy.

In most cases of constipation, dietary and lifestyle changes help to relieve and prevent the symptoms of constipation. The goal of treatment is to re-establish normal bowel movement without the use of laxatives or enemas.

•  Diet. A fibre-rich diet fibre (20 to 35 g each day) is essential for soft and bulky stool. High-fibre foods include beans, whole grains, fresh fruits, and
vegetables. Foods that have little or no fibre, such as ice-cream, cheese, meat, and processed foods, are to be avoided.

Lifestyle changes.

Changes that can help treat and prevent constipation are:

• Drinking enough liquids
• Daily exercise
• Enough time to have a bowel movement. The urge to have a bowel movement should not be ignored.

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