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Treating Constipation

What is the number one gastrointestinal problem for children and adults in the U.S.? You'd be surprised to learn that it's constipation. House Call Doctor explains the top causes and treatments for this condition. Plus - how to know if your constipation is actually a sign of something more concerning.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD
December 5, 2013
Episode #138

Page 1 of 2

Pop quiz:  What is the top cause of chronic gastrointestinal problems in both adults and children in the U.S.?

Answer:  Heartburn and acid reflux are quite common and possibly a close second. But the most common tummy issue is actually constipation.

Why is constipation so common these days?  With our fast-paced, work-driven, free-time-deprived world, it’s become more challenging to take the time to think about what we eat.  We tend to eat on the go, eat more fast-food, eat out instead of in, and leave little time to prepare ahead for our meals. We are just a more pooped-out society (no pun intended).  And because of this less-than-optimal nutritional intake, we experience more difficulties staying regular with our bowels.

Another pop quiz:  Have you heard about the new movie Constipation?

Answer:  Never mind, it hasn’t come out yet.

Okay, that was a crappy joke (pun intended), but we are going to find out how to launch its release in today’s episode.

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What Is Constipation?

Does it mean you are constipated if you don’t have a bowel movement every day?  I get asked that question a lot.  But not everyone needs to empty out their inner tubings every day.  People’s anatomy and physiology vary – some people normally stool every day, and some every 2 to 3 days and it may still be normal for them.  What is not normal, however, is if you are experiencing other uncomfortable symptoms along with less frequent stooling, such as:

  • abdominal pain or discomfort
  • sensation of bloating or fullness
  • straining with your bowel movements
  • small amounts of stool at a time
  • skinny or pencil-thin stool
  • feeling of incomplete evacuation
  • blood in your stool
  • pain with defecation
  • hard stools

So if you have a bowel movement every 2-3 days, your bowel movements are as soft as toothpaste, and you have no other discomfort, then it’s all A-Okay.  Otherwise, you may need to consider some modifications to your diet.

Top 8 Causes of Constipation

Poor nutritional intake is by far the most colonic culprit of constipation, but there are a few other medical problems that can cause constipation as well.  And if it’s a chronic issue for you, it may be wise to see your doctor to make sure that you don’t suffer from the following medical conditions that can predispose you to constipation, such as:

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