Constipation  is a common issue. Every year, more than 2.5 million Americans visit the local pharmacy in hopes of finding relief. Constipation is a result of stools that may be too hard or too small, hard to pass, or infrequent (under three times each week). Individuals suffering from constipation often need to strain in an attempt to pass a stool and experience a feeling of excessive fullness.

Many elements can contribute to or cause blockage, such as low fiber intake, poor nutrition, certain medications, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, stress, and certain diseases. Diseases like diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis are connected with constipation as well as various forms of irritable bowel disease.

How do You Avoid Constipation? 

First, you should eat a balanced diet rich in fiber. Fiber is vital to reducing the risk of constipation and treating the condition. Most people need 20-35 grams of fiber daily. Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, certain fruits, potatoes, and whole grain breads are high in fiber (be sure to leave the skin on your fruits and potatoes for a power punch of fiber!). If you struggle with eating enough fiber-rich foods or are still unable to find relief with dietary changes, there are over the counter fiber supplements available as well. Make sure to begin these gradually to avoid gas or excessively loose stools. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new supplement regimen.

Second, drink a lot of fluids, particularly water—no less than 64 ounces each day.

Third, tune in to your body. Intestinal distress is most common after dinner when most people eat their largest meal and have consumed most of the day’s food intake. In the event that your want to have a defecation, don’t hold it! This can lead to constipation, impacted bowels, and other uncomfortable symptoms and conditions.

Finally, if constipation persists, take an over the counter laxative—checking with your doctor first—to relieve discomfort and prevent symptoms from worsening. Frequent use of laxatives is an indication of a deeper issue and a sign you need to see your doctor right away about your condition.

Signs You Need to See a Doctor about Constipation

  • Symptoms are new (i.e., changes in bowel habits)
  • Constipation endures longer than three weeks
  • Symptoms are serious (days between bowel movements)
  • Constipation is related with some other concerning medical issue, for example, blood on the tissue, weight reduction, fevers, or other change in bowel habits.

What tests will a Gastroenterologists Perform to Assess Chronic Constipation?

Your GI Specialist  will discuss your symptoms with you. Testing and treatment will vary by age, medical history, length of symptoms, etc. Depending on the severity of the condition, testing may include blood tests, rectal examination, colonoscopy, x-rays or an MRI.

What is the Treatment for Serious Constipation? 

If over-the-counter medications or dietary and lifestyle changes do not help relieve constipation, pharmaceuticals may be the recommended treatment. Your GI doctor will prescribe a comprehensive treatment plan based on the review of your symptoms and test results.

Though you may be hesitant to discuss constipation with your doctor, push aside the embarrassment or fears. Constipation is a sign that something else is going on inside your body and, if left untreated, can lead to more serious GI disorders. If you are having symptoms, talk to a GI Specialist . The expert gastroenterologists at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates and Endoscopy Centers can help you treat and manage any form of GI distress.