|Constipation is probably one of the most laughed-at ailments, but for the person who's constipated, it’s no laughing matter. Constipation involves infrequent bowel movements, passing hard stools or straining during bowel movements. “Infrequent” generally means less than three times a week. Constipation is caused by an intestinal slowdown, which can be due in part to inadequate fluid intake, a low-fiber diet, inattention to bowel habits, old age, not exercising, pregnancy or illness. Some medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure and depression can cause constipation. Narcotics can cause it as well.
If you think you are constipated, you can have a doctor confirm your suspicion. He will make sure you don’t have a blockage in your small intestine. He may perform a stool analysis or he might look into your rectum using a barium enema or a sigmoidoscopy (a lighted, flexible tube to examine your colon or rectum). He may administer a colonoscopy, which will let him examine your colon using a camera, or an anorectal manometry, when the doctor inserts a narrow tub into the anus and rectum and measures the coordination of the muscles used to move your bowels. But you can change your lifestyle to treat constipation. You can use a fiber supplement like oat bran or a stool softener. You can also try Ex-Lax, which acts as a laxative; however, you shouldnt rely on laxatives because taking too many can destroy your intestinal tract and, in fact, cause constipation. Your doctor might also suggest biofeedback, which can help you coordinate the muscles used to go to the bathroom. You can prevent constipation by eating fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains), limiting foods that are high in fat and sugar, drinking a lot of water and exercising more. Also, if nature calls, be sure to answer immediately, just like Mister Private does in a time of need.