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CONQUERING CONSTIPATION

Wednesday September 11 2013    |     Views: 2562    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share





Hello dear reader. Thank you for grabbing another edition of your favourite WOW magazine. This edition’s topic was inspired by an occurrence that happened several years back and I discovered that quite a number of people have had a session of this condition at one point or the other. This incident occurred during my secondary school days, permit me to come in here that I am so proud of my alma mater (Mayflower School Ikenne) - where the motto ‘knowledge is light’ and where we were taught that self reliance is the key.

This incident occurred during one of the evening assemblies. We were all settled down and suddenly one of the juniors in her first year came rushing to me that I needed to come and check on her friend. I quickly followed her and when I got to where her friend was, I discovered she was really feeling uncomfortable. She could barely sit and neither could she stand. She found it difficult to eat even though she was hungry. I asked her what was wrong with her and she explained to me that she was feelings pains in her tummy and that she had not used the toilet for sometime. I tried doing the little examination I could do as a senior secondary school student and I observed that her tummy was bloated and when I tried touching it, I discovered it was very hard. Even though I was the home economics prefect and not the medical prefect, I ensured she was given adequate medical treatment and I had to do a little diet follow up which I learnt from the Foods and Nutrition classes I took back then.

Even though all this happened over a decade and a half ago, there are still such occurrences happening around us today. Quite a number of people would have had a bout of constipation at one time or the other, but some people are so lucky they have never had any session of constipation before. Each person develops a usual bowel pattern, so that bowel movement everyday or every second or third day may be perfectly normal for a given individual.

Constipation refers to a decrease in a person’s normal frequency of defecation, especially if the stool is hard, dry or difficult to expel. It is most often defined as having a bowel movement less than 3 times per week. It usually is associated with hard stools or difficulty passing stools. You may have pain while passing stools or may be unable to have a bowel movement after straining or pushing for more than 10 minutes. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. The normal length of time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. You may not have a bowel movement every day while some people have bowel movements three times a day; and others, only one or two times a week. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool or faeces become harder and more difficult to pass.
 Although some healthy people always have soft or near-runny stools, others have firm stools, but have no trouble passing them.
When you rarely have a bowel movement, or it takes a lot of effort to pass stool, you have constipation. Passing large, wide, or hard stools may tear the anus, especially in children. This can cause bleeding and may lead to an anal fissure.

An individual is considered constipated if he or she has two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
Straining during a bowel movement more than twenty five percent of the time.
Hard stools more than twenty five percent of the time.
Incomplete evacuation of stools more than twenty five percent of the time.
Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.


CAUSES
Constipation is most often caused by regular intake of low-fibre diet, lack of physical activity, not drinking enough water, delay in going to the bathroom when you have the urge to move your bowels. Stress and travel can also contribute to constipation or other changes in bowel habits.

Other causes include:
A disruption of regular diet or routine.
Eating large amounts of dairy products.
Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which is sometimes the result of pain from haemorrhoids.
Pregnancy.
Overuse of laxatives (stool softeners) which, over time, weaken the bowel muscles.
Hypothyroidism.
Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.
Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminium medicines (especially strong pain medicines, such as narcotics, antidepressants, or iron pills).
Depression and eating disorders.
Constipation in children often occurs if they hold back bowel movements when they aren't ready for toilet training or are afraid of it.

SYMPTOMS
Symptoms of constipation can include:
Infrequent bowel movements and/or difficulty having bowel movements
Swollen abdomen or abdominal pain
Vomiting

PREVENTION
There are several things that can be done to prevent constipation. Among them:
 Ensuring you eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fibre. Good sources of fibre are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain bread and cereal (especially bran). Fibre and water help the colon pass stool.
Drink at least 3 to 4 litres of water and other fluids a day (unless fluid restricted for another medical condition). Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks, seem to have a dehydrating effect and may need to be avoided until your bowel habits return to normal. Some people may need to avoid milk, as dairy products may be constipating for them.
Exercise regularly.
Move your bowels when you feel the urge.

TREATMENT
Home care can be given to an individual who is constipated. If it is discovered that an individual has constipation, the following can be done;
Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day (unless fluid restricted).
Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Yoyo Bitters is effective in easing bowel movements. Have a spoon or two every morning.
Eat prunes and/or bran cereal.
Stool softeners (such as those containing docusate sodium) may help. Bulk laxatives or stool softeners may help add fluid and bulk to the stool. Suppositories or gentle laxatives, such as milk of magnesia liquid, may help you have regular bowel movements. Do not use laxatives for more than two weeks without calling your doctor, as laxative overuse can aggravate your symptoms

Regular exercise may also help establish regular bowel movements. If you are confined to a wheelchair or bed, change position often. Also do abdominal exercises and leg raises. A physical therapist can recommend exercises that you can do.

Enemas or stimulant laxatives should only be used in severe cases. These methods should be used only if fibre, fluids, and stool softeners do not provide enough relief.

Do NOT give laxatives or enemas to children without first asking your doctor.



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