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Chronic Constipation: Facts vs. Myths

Learn how to relieve chronic constipation.
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Chronic Constipation: What's Normal? What's Not? continued...

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 Constipation Myth: The number of bowel movements increases with age.

The Truth: Actually, the number of bowel movements decreases with age.

Chronic Constipation Myth: Chronic constipation does not affect that many people.

The Truth: Chronic constipation is a serious issue, affecting 15% to 20% of the U.S. population.

Chronic Constipation Myth: If you eat right, exercise, and drink plenty of fluids, you should never suffer from chronic constipation.

The Truth: Sometimes psychological issues trigger chronic constipation. For instance, childhood sexual or physical abuse -- or the loss of a parent through divorce, separation, or death -- may contribute to adult chronic constipation. Constipation often coexists with depression. Chronic constipation can also be caused by an underlying medical condition such as low thyroid hormone levels.

Chronic Constipation: What Causes It?

After you eat, food moves through your digestive tract. The intestines take water and nutrients from the food. Normally, the process continues until a stool is formed. Squeezing contractions in the intestine then pass the stool out of the body.

Because constipation is often linked with hard stools, one theory is that too much water is absorbed from the stool, leaving it dry and hard. Another theory is that abnormal hormonal responses to the ingested water may trigger chronic constipation. More research is necessary to better understand how constipation happens and to unravel the mysterious link between the gut, hormones, and the brain.

6 Keys to Relieving Chronic Constipation

Relieving chronic constipation takes a multifaceted, lifestyle approach:

1. Get Regular

Go to the bathroom at the same time each morning. Make this your morning "habit," as colonic motor activity is highest at this time.

2. Listen to Your Body

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