Daily Archives: February 16, 2011

Why Does Constipation Happen?

Constipation is defined as  irregular, infrequent, or difficult bowel evacuation. Here, being infrequent is defined as <3 times per week, while difficulty is defined as straining more than 25% of the time (for a 15- minute session, that means about 4 minutes of pure straining). These things are bad because they eventually result in certain acute or chronic symptoms that one would only get constipation relief when the bowel movements go back to normal.

To understand why constipation happens, it is important to categorize it into either problems with stool consistency or problems with the defecation behavior itself. That’s because one person may experience constipation due to regular production of hard stools, while another person may experience it even if the produced stools are soft.

Problems with the Stool

Hard stools are most commonly due to dietary problems. And a person produces them because of two things: too little water, or too much fiber.  To understand this, it should be noted that stools take their final form inside the large intestine. Here, any remaining water in the undigested food is absorbed (about 500 mL). So if the person has taken too little water, then the resulting stool becomes too dehydrated, making it hard. As for fiber, they give bulk to our stool. If a person takes too much of it, without a proportionate increase in water intake, it produces stools that are too bulky, making it difficult to push them out.

Problems with Defecation Behavior
As for problems with the defecation behavior itself, the causes are protean. However, they can be divided as those involving the colon or rectum itself (obstructions, colon diseases, rectal prolapse, etc), those involving medication abuse (narcotics, iron supplements, certain antacids, etc), and those in connection with systemic diseases (hypothyroidism, spinal cord injuries, diabetic neuropathy, etc). All of these causes either prevent the intestine from contracting properly, or block the outlet where the stool passes.

What Now?

Thankfully, when constipation does happen, a person has many constipation remedies to choose from. These range from increased fluid intake to biofeedback therapy. All these constipation remedies will work, but depending on how they address the root cause of the problem. Knowing exactly what the problem is therefore, the key to relieving this condition.