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Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements or passing of stool. Medically it is defined as fewer than three stools per week and severe constipation as less than one stool per week. Whether constipation is acute or chronic, it can be extremely distressing. Did you know that constipation is the most common digestive complaint in the U.S. and that it affects more than 4 million Americans?

The definition of constipation may vary from person to person depending upon what a normal bowel habit may be for that individual. For instance, ‘going’ 3-4 times a week may be normal for you but may not be for someone who goes everyday. However, when defecation becomes tough and stool becomes hard and impacted, that’s when you know you’re constipated.

Along with hard stool, some other symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Straining to go
  • A feeling of incomplete evacuation
  • Abdominal pain

Here is a picture showing the anatomy of the rectum. The one on the left is a normal rectum that experiences regular defecation with soft stool. Individuals with chronic constipation however, develop a dilated and enlarged rectum due to impaction of large, hard stool.

So, the question is, where do things get stuck? (pardon the pun).

What causes constipation?

There are a number of conditions that result in chronic constipation such as:

  • Anal fissure
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colon cancer
  • Narrowing of the colon
  • Rectal cancer
  • Rectocele
  • Spinal cord injury that affects the nerves supplying the rectum and colon
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism

Factors that increase risk for developing constipation

As you can see in the picture above, there are several factors that can influence bowel habits. If you fit into one or more of the categories above, and are experiencing abnormal bowel movements, bleeding or pain while passing stool, you should contact your doctor for further evaluation.

It might be a medicine you’re taking, or maybe your water intake is insufficient. Do you think you move around enough or lead a more sedentary lifestyle? Do you consume a bowel friendly diet? Ask this and more at If you can’t find the time to go to a doctor any time soon, you can get expert medical advice online through a tele appointment with doctor booking system. Download the telemedicine app MyLiveDoctors on your smartphone and gain access to qualified healthcare providers right away! Book your doctor appointment online and engage in an online medical consultation. This is one of the best medical apps for patients that is not only quick and convenient but cheaper too! My Live Doctors provides quality healthcare to individuals living at rural and remote locations. Look up your doctor and get the answers you’re looking for.

How can you relieve constipation?

Your doctor is likely to prescribe a laxative or stool softener to ease the passage of stool. If it is painful, there are topical anesthetics like lidocaine that can be applied around the anus to numb the area. It also helps lubricate the region.

If these things don’t work, there are other steps you can take along with medicines for quicker relief. Here are some home remedies for constipation.

  • Increase water intake

An intake of 8-12 glasses of water per day is recommended. Decreased water consumption causes the stool to become dry and hard. To prevent this, it is important to stay hydrated.

  • Include more fiber in your diet

High fiber foods such as avocados, whole grains and lentils add bulk to the stool and makes it soft. A study shows that 77% of people with chronic constipation benefited from supplementing with fiber.

  • Exercise

Increasing physical activity increases bowel movement. The only way to get things moving is to get going. Literally. A good peristaltic movement is all you need for complete evacuation.

  • Drink coffee, tea or other hot beverages

Some people benefit from drinking caffeine, tea or warm milk. It is shown to activate the bowel and trigger an urge to pass stool.

  • Prunes and other dry fruits

Prunes for constipation are the way to go. They are not only a great source of fiber, but consist of a natural laxative known as sorbitol. Prune juice is highly recommended. You can also add other dry fruits to it like shown in the infographic below.

Hope these tips help. Constipation may seem non-serious, and most of the time it is. But it can really stress you out at times and cause complications in the long run if not managed timely. You know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough geAt going! So do just that!