262012Nov

Constipation: Treating Starts with Understanding

If you suffer from constipation, you may not realize it, but you are most definitely not alone. In fact, constipation accounts for nearly 2.5 million physician visits per year; which makes it the most common digestive complaint, outnumbering all other chronic digestive conditions. Sufferers commonly use laxatives to treat their constipation symptoms; use of laxatives costs sufferers nearly $725 million a year.

It is likely that everyone at some point and time will suffer from symptoms of constipation; however the diagnosis of constipation as a chronic condition is made using the Rome Criteria. The Rome Criteria include: Infrequent bowel movements (usually three times or fewer per week), difficulty during defecation (straining during more than 25% of bowel movements), or a sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation. For most people, the symptoms of constipation are temporary; however, for others it is a chronic problem that impairs the ability to live a normal daily life.

Constipation has a variety of causes and will vary by individual. Some of the most common causes of symptoms include age, 30% of constipated patients are over 65, not enough fiber in the diet, medications, laxative abuse, dehydration, history of a stroke, and problems with proper intestinal function.

Corrections to a diet may be the only step needed to alleviate constipation symptoms. Most Americans eat less than half of the recommended amount of daily fiber intake. It is recommended that each person consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Fiber helps prevent the formation of hard, dry stools that become difficult to pass. Another cause of constipation is medications. Opioid analgesics (pain medications), antidepressants, and diuretics have all been known to cause symptoms of constipation. Laxative abuse occurs as people use more and more laxatives, and thus the body grows reliant upon these laxatives to have a bowel movement.

It is important to understand the causes of your constipation symptoms. Discovering what causes these symptoms will help you and your physician establish an effective and personalized treatment plan. There are a few basic and elementary steps taken to treat symptoms of constipation. These include the aforementioned fiber intake, regular exercise, and laxatives. Aside from these three treatments, physicians can look to use medications like Amitiza. These medications help to increase fluid content in stool and decrease time in the colon.

Remember, constipation is more common than you might perceive. It is important to understand what is causing your symptoms so that the necessary changes can be made. Most symptoms of constipation can be treated and alleviated with simple lifestyle changes. If your symptoms continue to persist despite these changes, contact your physician to explore more advanced treatment options.


References:
http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2004/2004-01/2004-01-7621
http://www.uwgi.org/guidelines/ch_05/CH05TXT.HTM
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/constipation/DS00063/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs