What it is:
Doctors define constipation as a condition which the bowels are evacuated after a longer interval or with difficulty and the person is not satisfied. The interval varies from person to person and is difficult to generalize. Some evacuate their bowels once, others twice a day, while there are still others who do so only once in 2 or 3 days and yet have sound health.
Everyone passes through a period of constipation at some point of time and a constipation
of few days should not be a cause of worry.
However, if the problem persists for a longer period, medical help should be sought
as constipation is known to trigger many serious diseases.
The two most important causes of constipation are a disregard of the call of nature to pass a motion and an improper diet.
When the rectum is full, it sends signals to the central nervous system for their movement and if this is repeatedly ignored, it gradually leads to failure of the rectum to signal the urge. There could be other causes of constipation too. These could be a disease or abnormality of the gastro-intestinal tract, adverse effects of drugs, drying of the stools (faecal impaction), obstruction of the intestines, and severe illness in which the food and intake is too little. In case of prolonged constipation in infants or intermittent constipation with diarrhoea, the physician should be consulted to rule out surgical problems. If there is a painful disorder of rectum and anus, the person tends to avoid defecation due to pain. This must be investigated and treated properly.
Prevention and cure
Sometimes the causes of constipation are dietary. When stools pass through large intestine, the intestine absorbs water through it and they become dry. If this passage
through large intestine is slow, too much water may be absorbed from the stools making them hard and difficult to defecate. Hence, one should take sufficient fluids, especially water. However, a word of caution here. Cola drinks and caffeine should be avoided as they are known to cause constipation.
Fibers help in softening of stools. But, because of heating, fibers present in vegetables get destroyed. So, one should increase intake of salads.
Medical Science has come out with drugs like Cisapride, Mosapride, Tegaserod. However, these are known to have serious side-effects and should be taken under the supervision of a doctor.