Signs and Symptoms
1. Hard, compacted stools that are difficult or painful to pass.
2. A lingering feeling of painfulness or incompleteness after having a bowel movement.
3. No bowel movement for three days for adults, fullness days for children (Depending on your diet, age and daily activity, regularity can mean anything from three bowel movements a day to three per week).
4. Swelling, bloating, or discomfort in the abdomen.
What to do now
Most cases respond to home treatment, such as changes in diet. If constipation isn’t caused by disease, simply eating more fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and drinking lots of water (at least eight glasses a day) should soften your stools and restore regularity. In addition:
1. Avoid over-the-counter laxatives unless your doctor recommends them, because your body may become dependent on them. If you must take a laxative, try a psyllium laxative, which is relatively gentle. Never take a laxative if you have abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, or if you are pregnant.
2. Do not take mineral oil as a laxative unless your doctor recommends it.
3. If infants under six months are mildly constipated, give them prune juice r other fruit juices. Toddlers, older children, and adults can have whole prunes. (Remove pits for toddlers)
When to call a doctor
Occasional constipation shouldn’t send you to the doctor’s office, but two weeks or more of the problem should. Call for an immediate appointment:
1. If you constipation is accompanied by fever and lower abdominal pain, and the stools you do produce are thin or loose. These symptoms may indicate diverticulitis.
2. If you have blood in you stools. This may be from an anal fissure or a hemorrhoid, but it could also be a sign of bowel cancer.
3. If constipation develops after taking a new prescription drug or vitamin and mineral supplements. You may need to discontinue or change the dosage.
4. If you are elderly or disabled and have been constipated for a week or more; you may have an impacted stool.
5. If your constipation is accompanied by weight loss.
6. If an increase in dietary fiber and exercise have failed to help after two weeks.
How to prevent it
1. Include moderate exercise in your daily routine. A brisk 3 minute walk should be enough to promote regularity.
2. Be sure to drink plenty of water- at least eight glasses a day.
3. Get lots of fiber by eating at least five servings a day fresh fruits, vegetables, and other good sources of dietary fiber, including bran and other whole-grain cereals, raw or cooked dried fruits such as raisins and prunes, cooked dried beans, and nuts.
4. Allow sufficient time for bowel movements, particularly after breakfast and dinner, and preferably at the same time everyday.