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What is Constipation


Constipation is a condition in which a person has difficulty passing stool.

This may cause a person to feel bloated and uncomfortable. There are many possible causes of constipation, including a lack of fiber in the diet, dehydration, and certain medications.

Having less than three bowel movements a week is, technically the definition of constipation.

Constipation is often treated with home remedies, such as increasing fiber intake and drinking plenty of fluids. More severe cases may require medical treatment.

Constipation is a common problem that can be treated at home with lifestyle changes and home remedies.

Other key features that usually define constipation include:

  • Dry / hard stool
  • Painful bowel movement and difficulty passing stool
  • The feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowel

If constipation persists, you should consider seeing a doctor.

In this article we discuss everything about constipation and the prevention and treatment thereof.

What Causes Constipation?

There are many different things that can cause constipation. Some of the more common causes include not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough water, and not getting enough exercise.

Constipation can also be a side effect of certain medications. If you are constipated, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

There are a few things you can do to help relieve constipation. If you are constipated, your doctor may recommend a stool softener or laxative.


Symptoms of Constipation


Symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • The feeling of not having completely emptied your bowel
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Feeling bloated
  • Having stomach cramps
  • Having stomachache
  • Difficulty in passing stools
  • Dry or hard/lumpy stools
  • You have less that 3 bowel movements a week 


Diagnosis of Constipation

To diagnose constipation, your doctor will ask about your medical history and your diet.

Your doctor may also do a physical exam. This may include a rectal exam.

If your doctor suspects that another condition is causing your constipation, you may need tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI.

These tests can help find the cause of your constipation.


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Complications of Constipation

If you’re constipated, you may not be able to have a bowel movement.

This can cause stool to build up in your intestines, which can lead to complications such as the following:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures
  • Intestinal blockages.

If you’re constipated for more than a week, you should see a doctor. They may prescribe a laxative or enema to help you relieve constipation.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove impacted stool from your intestines.

Constipation can be uncomfortable and even painful. But it’s important to treat it so it doesn’t lead to more serious complications.


Finding the Cause of Constipation

Depending on your symptoms, medical history and overall health, your doctor may order several test or procedures to determine what the cause of your constipation is.


Lab Testing

Your doctor might order a blood or urine test to see if there are signs of hypothyroidism, diabetes, or anemia.

Stool Testing

A stool sample might be requested to check for signs of infection, cancer, or inflammation.

Imaging Test

CT (computed tomography), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or lower gastrointestinal tract series may be ordered to identify problems that could be the cause of your constipation.


A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy– an internal view of your colon with a scope – may be performed. During this procedure, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken to test for cancer or other problems, and any found polyps will be removed.


How to Treat Constipation

If you’re anything like the average person, you probably don’t think much about your bowel movements.

But when you’re backed up, it’s all you can think about. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems, and it’s responsible for some pretty uncomfortable symptoms.

The good news is that there are things you can do to ease the pain and get things moving again.

Here are a few tips for treating constipation:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Staying hydrated is key for keeping your digestive system running smoothly.
  • When you’re constipated, aim for six to eight glasses of water a day.
  • Eat more fiber.

 Home Remedies for Constipation


Are you suffering from constipation?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 4 million Americans suffer from constipation every year.

There are many different home remedies for constipation that can help relieve your symptoms.

Some of the most popular home remedies include:

  • Eat more fiber in your diet
  • Avoid dairy
  • Eat prunes
  • Drink magnesium citrate
  • Eat prebiotic foods
  • Try a FODMAP diet
  • Over-the-counter laxatives
  • Take probiotic supplements

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Dietary Changes to Consider:


If you are constipated, you may want to consider increasing your dietary fiber intake.

There are many high-fiber foods that you can eat to help relieve constipation.

Some of these foods include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds

If you are having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, you may want to consider taking a fiber supplement.


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 Over-the-counter Treatments for constipation


If you’re struggling with constipation, you’re not alone.

There are a number of over-the-counter treatments that can help relieve constipation. The first step is to increase your fluid intake.

This will help to soften your stools and make them easier to pass. Aim for eight glasses of water a day. You can also try adding prune juice or lemon juice to your water.

There are a number of over-the-counter laxatives that can help relieve constipation. These include stool softeners, fiber supplements, and enemas. Be sure to follow the directions on the package.


Other Medical Treatments


There are a variety of other medical treatments for constipation. If you have tried dietary changes and increased physical activity, and your constipation persists, you may want to talk to your doctor about other options.

One medical treatment for constipation is laxatives. Laxatives work by softening the stool and increasing the frequency of bowel movements.

There are different types of laxatives, and your doctor can help you determine which type is right for you.

Another medical treatment for constipation is enemas. Enemas work by flushing out the rectum and colon with fluid. This can help to soften the stool and make it easier to pass.


Prevention of Constipation


There are a few things that you can do to help prevent constipation.

First, make sure that you are drinking enough fluids. This will help to keep your stool soft.

Second, eat plenty of high-fiber foods. These will help to add bulk to your stool and make it easier to pass. Following a healthy diet is important if you are already struggling with constipation.

Third, make sure that you are getting enough exercise. This will help to keep your digestive system moving.

Lastly, if you are having trouble going, try using a stool softener or laxative. These can help to make it easier to pass stool.

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When To See a Gastroenterologist

There is no definitive answer to the question of when to see a gastroenterologist. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to seek medical help.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible:

  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
    Abdominal pain or cramping
    • Bleeding from the rectum
    • Unexplained weight loss

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of constipation in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today.


The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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