Constipation Misconceptions - What You Need to Know
*** For the Audio Companion to this article, Click on The player above *****
Constipation is a prevalent digestive issue that millions of individuals experience globally. It is a condition where an individual finds it difficult to pass stool, has infrequent bowel movements, or has regular stools but feels a sense of incomplete evacuation.
It’s also often associated with various misconceptions, which can lead to the wrong treatment and management of the condition. This article dispels some of these misconceptions and provides accurate information on what constipation is, its causes, and how to manage it.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation is a digestive condition where an individual has difficulty passing stool or has fewer bowel movements than usual. It is a prevalent problem that affects people of all ages, with women and older adults being more prone to the condition.
It can be acute, where it lasts for a short period, or chronic, where it persists for more than three months.
Causes of Constipation
Constipation can be caused by various factors, which can either be lifestyle-related or medical. Some of the common causes of constipation include the following:
Lack of Fiber in the Diet: A diet low in fiber can cause constipation as fiber helps to add bulk to stool, making it easier to pass.
Dehydration: Dehydration from insufficient water/liquid consumption might result in constipation.
Sedentary Lifestyle: Constipation can result from sluggish bowel motions caused by inactivity.
Medications: Constipation can be brought on by some drugs, including calcium-based antacids, opioids, and antidepressants.
Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, and diabetes, can cause constipation.
Misconceptions about Constipation
1. You Need to Have a Bowel Movement Every Day (Not True!!!)
One of the most common misconceptions about constipation is that you need to have a bowel movement every day. However, this is not necessarily true. The frequency of bowel movements depends on various factors such as diet, age, and lifestyle.
While some individuals may have bowel movements every day, others may have them every two to three days. Anywhere between 3 bowel movements and day and 3 bowel movements a week can be considered “normal”!
2. Constipation Is Only a Problem If You Are Not Passing Stool
Another misconception about constipation is that it is only a problem if you are not passing stool. However, this is not entirely true. Constipation can also be characterized by hard, dry, and lumpy stool, which can be painful to pass.
3. Laxatives Are the Only Solution for Constipation
Laxatives are a commonly used solution for constipation. However, they are not the only solution, and they should not be used as the first line of treatment.
Laxatives (stimulant-based laxatives) can lead to dependency, making it difficult for an individual to pass stool without them. In particular you should be careful when using “natural” laxatives, as they often contain Senna derivatives. When used regularly this can result in dependency.
4. A High-Fiber Diet Can Cure Constipation
While a high-fiber diet can help prevent constipation, it is not a cure. A diet high in fiber can assist in providing stools bulk so that they are easier to pass. However, it may not be enough by itself to treat chronic constipation.
Constipation can be managed through lifestyle changes and medical interventions. Some of the ways to manage constipation include the following:
Increasing Fiber Intake: A diet rich in fiber can help prevent and manage constipation. In general most patients need 30g-35g per day of fiber. Fiber supplements , particularly chewable fiber supplements such as gummies or tablets, may be helpful in reaching those daily goals.
Drinking Plenty of Liquids: Staying hydrated can help prevent constipation. Water, Juice, Teas can all help.
Exercising Regularly: Regular physical activity can help stimulate bowel movements, reducing the risk of constipation.
Using Laxatives: Laxatives can be used as a short-term solution for constipation. However, they should not be used for an extended period without discussing with your doctor first.
Seeking Medical Attention: If constipation persists despite lifestyle changes and laxatives, it is essential to seek medical attention.
Constipation is a typical intestinal issue that can affect anyone at any age. Several things, such as a diet lacking in fiber, dehydration, and a sedentary lifestyle, might contribute to it.
It is essential to understand what constipation is, its causes, and how to manage it effectively. By making lifestyle changes and seeking medical attention when necessary, constipation can be prevented and managed effectively.
Stuart Akerman MD is the best gastroenterologist in Frisco, TX! With top ratings and expertise in gastroenterology, Dr. Akerman offers unparalleled consultation and treatment in Plano, Frisco, Mckinney, and Dallas. Don’t hesitate to book your appointment now to receive the best care for your gastrointestinal health.
My thanks to Fesliyan Studios (https://www.fesliyanstudios.com/) for the audio track accompanying the narration of this article
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this blog is intended for Informational Use only and is not intended to replace personal evaluation and treatment by a medical provider. The information provided on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor for any information related to your personal care.