Tube demonstrating constipation

Constipation is a bowel issue which can be frustrating to deal with.  It can adversely affect a person’s quality of life and can also be difficult to treat in some cases.

However, in many cases simple lifestyle changes to help the bowel and bowel transit can completely alleviate this condition.

Constipation can also be referred to as irregularity.  At it’s most basic it is defined as infrequent or difficult bowel movements.

Irregularity affects roughly 10 to 20% of the population.  It is twice as likely to occur in women and it becomes more prevalent with age.  Especially, after the age of 65.  Pregnancy is also a time for women during which irregularity often occurs.

So what does it mean to be constipated?

Well, there are diagnostic criteria for functional constipation (FC) created by The Rome Foundation which look at a person’s bowel movements.

Irregularity is diagnosed as FC when no other causes can be identified.  This means that nothing else like a medical condition/disease or a medication is causing the irregularity.

Rome IV Diagnostic Criteria for Functional Constipation

Must include 2 or more of the following:

  • Straining during more than one-fourth (25%) of defecations
  • Lumpy or hard stools (BSFS 12) more than one-fourth (25%) of defecations
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation more than one-fourth (25%) of defecations
  • Sensation of anorectal obstruction/blockage more than one-fourth (25%) of defecation
  • Manual maneuvers to facilitate more than one fourth (25%) of defecations (eg, digital evacuation, support of the pelvic floor)
  • Fewer than 3 spontaneous bowel movements per week

Lifestyle interventions such as increasing physical activity, increasing dietary fiber intake and drinking plenty of water can help improve the passage of the stool and relieve some cases of FC.

If basic lifestyle changes fail then adding supplemental fiber such as psyllium husks may help.  Laxatives such as polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350) may also be helpful.

Since constipation is a major risk factor for developing hemorrhoids you may also wish to learn about hemorrhoids.