Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for the last 3 months. Constipation is described as having fewer than three spontaneous bowel movements (SBM) a week. Though occasional constipation is very common, some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere their quality of life. Chronic constipation may also cause people to strain excessively in order to have a bowel movement.
Constipation most commonly occurs when stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract or cannot be eliminated effectively from the rectum, which may cause the stool to become hard and dry. Chronic constipation has many possible causes, such as blockage in the colon or rectum, problems with the nerves around the colon and rectum, difficulty with the muscles involved in elimination, or some conditions/diseases like diabetes, hypothyroid, etc.
Factors that may increase your risk of chronic constipation include being an older adult, being a woman, dehydrated, low fibers intake, less or no physical activity, some medication (sedatives, opioid pain medications, some antidepressants or medications to lower blood pressure) and mental health disorder such as depression or eating disorder.
Complications of chronic constipation include swollen veins in anus (hemorrhoids) because of straining too hard, torn skin in anus (anal fissure) because of large or hard stool, stool that can't be expelled (fecal impaction) and intestine that protrudes from the anus (rectal prolapse).
The following can help you avoid developing chronic constipation.
- Include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, including beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and bran.
- Eat fewer foods with low amounts of fiber such as processed foods, and dairy and meat products.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Stay as active as possible and try to get regular exercise.
- Try to manage stress.
- Don't ignore the urge to pass stool.
- Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements, especially after a meal.
- Make sure children who begin to eat solid foods get plenty of fiber in their diets.
Treatment for chronic constipation depends in part on the underlying cause. However, in some cases, a cause is never found.
- Constipation. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253
- Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/all-content.