Constipation is one of those topics few like to talk about. If you've suffered from this problem, though, you know it can be both painful and frustrating.
Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. It affects approximately 2% of the population in the U.S. Women and the elderly are more commonly affected. Though not usually serious, constipation can be a concern.
Blood in the stool can be frightening, whether you discover it while wiping after a bowel movement or from a test ordered by your health care provider. While blood in stool can signal a serious problem, it doesn't always. Here's what you need to know about the possible causes of bloody stools and what you -- and your doctor -- should do if you discover a problem.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. The normal length of time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. Some people have bowel movements three times a day; 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 feces become harder and more difficult to pass.
You are considered constipated if you have two or more of the following for at least 3 months:
Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
Hard stools more than 25% of the time
Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
Two or fewer bowel movements in a week
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation is usually caused by a disorder of bowel function rather than a structural problem. Common causes of constipation include:
Inadequate water intake
Inadequate fiber in the diet
A disruption of regular diet or routine; traveling
Inadequate activity or exercise or immobility
Eating large amounts of dairy products
Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement, which is sometimes the result of pain from hemorrhoids
Overuse of laxatives (stimulant laxatives such as senna (Senokot)) which, over time, weaken the bowel muscles