Chronic Constipation: Facts vs. Myths
Learn how to relieve chronic constipation.
Constipation, the most common
digestive complaint in the U.S. population, can make life miserable. Not only
does constipation make you feel bloated, headachy, and irritable, but relieving
constipation -- especially long-term or chronic constipation -- is time
consuming and expensive. Each year in the U.S., chronic constipation leads to
around 2.5 million doctor visits -- and medication costs of many hundreds of million
Chronic Constipation: What Is It?
The definition of chronic constipation varies among different people. For
some people, chronic constipation means infrequent bowel movements for weeks at
a time. To others, chronic constipation means straining or having difficulty
passing stools. For instance, many describe chronic constipation as feeling
like you need to have a bowel movement, but no matter how long you sit, it just
won't happen. With chronic constipation, you may have hard or formed stools,
small stools, or a combination of infrequent hard, formed or small stools.
Generally, the definition of chronic constipation is a stool frequency of
less than three per week that lasts several months. Still, experts believe that
many who think they suffer from chronic constipation may actually underestimate
the frequency of their bowel habits, so this definition may not be
Chronic Constipation: What's Normal? What's Not?
If you or a loved one has chronic constipation, much of the anxiety and
distress may result from a lack of knowledge about this problem. Not only are
there magnified fears about what might be causing the problem, the discomfort
of chronic constipation itself can be debilitating. Constipation may slow your
performance at work and even cause you to miss recreational activities. That's
why it's important to know the facts about chronic constipation and talk to
your doctor about your personal situation.
Let's look at some chronic constipation myths and then identify the real
Chronic Constipation Myth: If you don't have one bowel
movement a day, it's abnormal.
The Truth: Less than 50% of people have one bowel movement a
Chronic Constipation Myth: Fewer than five or six bowel
movements a week is considered to be chronic constipation.
The Truth: 95% of adults have bowel movements between three
and 21 times per week. The entire range -- even just three bowel movements a
week -- is normal.
Chronic Constipation Myth: Toxins accumulate in the intestine
when bowel movements are infrequent.
The Truth: Contrary to popular belief, there is no
evidence that "toxins" accumulate when bowel movements are
infrequent or that constipation leads to disease such as cancer. However, if
you are still constipated after trying fiber, laxatives, or milk of magnesia,
it is time to consult a doctor for an evaluation.
Chronic ConstipationMyth: The number of bowel movements
increases with age.
The Truth: Actually, the number of bowel movements
decreases with age.