Irregularity and constipation both refer to difficulty passing a stool in a normal manner. But the nature of irregularity and constipation can vary widely from person to person. Some people don’t have bowel movements frequently enough, while others have small bowel movements, a sense of an incomplete bowel movement or difficulty passing a stool without intense pushing or straining. Others require supportive means like laxatives or enemas to pass a stool at all.
Bowel movement habits vary considerably, and anything from three times a day to three times a week can be considered normal. However, if constipation is long-lasting or causing other health complications, a doctor should be consulted about options for relieving constipation.
Causes of Constipation
For many people with constipation, the primary cause of the problem is simply not getting enough fiber in their daily diet. Fiber is a food component that helps promote healthy bowel movements, and consuming 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day is recommended in order to have healthy stools. Fiber intake can be increased by eating more fiber-rich foods.
Constipation can occur for other reasons, too. For example, it's related to many medical conditions, such as colon problems, diabetes and spinal cord injuries. It's also a side effect of many medications.
For many people, constipation can be alleviated by including more fiber-rich foods in the daily diet. These include prunes, apricots, raisins, beans, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals. At the same time, some foods -- including bananas, rice and refined breads and pastas -- have a tendency to bind you up and should be avoided. Fiber supplements, laxatives, suppositories and enemas can relieve constipation, but they can be overused so it’s best to consult with a doctor before using such products.
Some forms of constipation can be treated by relieving the underlying medical problem or by changing medications. When constipation is due to some form of physical problem in the colon or digestive tract, surgery may be required to achieve long-term relief.
SOURCES: American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons; American Academy of Pediatrics