Constipation is a prevalent and widespread problem. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimated that 1 in 16 adults suffer from constipation regularly. For those over 60, that number jumps to 1 in 33. While constipation is typically not serious or life-threatening, it can be painful and uncomfortable, taking a toll on a patient’s quality of life. There are a few ways to prevent recurrent constipation if you’re a frequent sufferer, however. Read on to learn about the most common causes of constipation, and how you can help alleviate the problem.

Preventative Measures

Many lifestyle factors and habits can contribute to chronic constipation. Stress is a big trigger, specifically when it’s tied to a change in a routine. For instance, the stress associated with traveling coupled with the change in routine causes constipation in many patients. However, everyday daily stress can contribute as well. It’s tough to tell patients to “relax” when life happens. But if possible, try to stick to a daily routine and follow your body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Increasing your fiber and water intake also goes a long way to prevent hard stools. Add two to four extra glasses of water per day to your repertoire, and increase your whole grains, fruits, and vegetable consumption. For more severe constipation, adding prunes has helped many patients over the years.

One of the most important things to remember is to immediately use the bathroom when you feel the urge to go. Patients may tend to wait to have a bowel movement, particularly if the only choice is a public restroom, but this can contribute to recurring colon problems.

Factors to Limit

If you take supplements, prescription medications, or over-the-counter medicines, you may want to check the label. Medication ingredients such as aluminum, calcium, iron, and bismuth salts can harden stools. Prescription opioids are strongly correlated with constipation. Other medications that may play a role in colon and bowel problems include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, anticholinergics, calcium channel blockers, and antacids fortified with calcium.

Overconsumption of dairy and overuse of laxatives also both cause frequent constipation. Laxatives are okay to use for occasional relief of constipation, but should not be relied upon as a permanent fix.

Constipation Relief

For many, simply making a few changes in diet and habits can break chronic constipation. Regular exercise is also noted to help relieve the issue as well. However, some just do not feel relief, with chronic constipation becoming a daily problem. GI Associates features a state-of-the-art health treatment that can stop pain, pressure, and constipation in its tracks. The HyGIeaCare Center is located right inside of the GI Associates office, helping to relieve chronic constipation in less than one hour. This non-invasive, painless procedure has no odor, and is an optimal choice for those who have tried other treatments such as laxatives, and have found no relief.

When Constipation Is Serious

Occasionally, chronic constipation can be tied to other digestive and colon problems. It is rare, but possible, for recurrent constipation to be linked with colon cancer. You should contact your gastroenterologist immediately should you see blood when you pass a stool. More commonly, constipation is linked with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a less serious but still uncomfortable disease of the colon. Provided you are under a doctor’s care, IBS can be well-managed with lifestyle and diet changes as well. Less commonly, constipation is also linked to Parkinson’s disease, nerve problems in the digestive tract, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), and diabetes. To learn more about how the HyGleaCare system can help beat your constipation for good, or for other questions about constipation or digestive health, make an appointment at GI Associates today. With three convenient locations and pediatric services, we offer gastroenterological and digestive care for the whole family.

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