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What is Chronic Constipation?

The Digestive Process

Your body processes food naturally, the only part of it that you can affect is your diet, the things you eat and drink. Normal digestion should take 24-48 hours to complete. You digestive system, a series of organs that process what you eat and drink to create fuel, runs from your mouth to your rectum. These organs all have muscles to push your food through them as they digest. The nutrients from your food are sent through the small intestine where the valuable parts are absorbed and the rest is passed on to the colon for excretion. During the excretion process your colon secretes and absorbs fluid to form stool which is formed but also soft enough to easily pass through the system. This balance between fluids is important for proper digestive function and elimination.

What Happens when you are Constipated?

In a person who is constipated the colon absorbs too much of the fluids in the waste and the stool hardens and sometimes gets stuck in the colon. This causes slowed elimination that can be painful or require more effort to complete, sometimes it can also lead to blockages.

Chronic constipation is dealing with the symptoms of constipation for long periods of time. This leads to hard, lumpy bowel movements and the sensation of a full bowel even after elimination. Usually a person with chronic constipation has been suffering it for about 3 months. Chronic constipation doesn't always mean that you cannot pass stool; it could mean irregular visits to the bathroom, periods of slowed elimination, or visits that allow only limited elimination. Here are some symptoms associated with chronic constipation:

  • Strained Bowel Movements: These are bowel movements that require extra effort to process and still leave the sufferer with a feeling of fullness in their bowels.

  • Abdominal Pain and Swelling: You feel bloated and uncomfortable with pain in your abdominal area.

  • Lumpy or hard stools: an ideal stool is neither too hard or too soft.

  • Using your fingers or hands to assist you in having a bowel movement: It should pass without assistance.

  • Emotional Stress: Having chronic constipation also means that you may be planning your day around your bathroom visits. It may cause stress and limit your ability to feel comfortable in social situations or have more sick days.

  • You should be passing waste no less than 3 times a week and no more than 3 times a day on average. If any of the above symptoms are occurring for you it's likely that you're suffering from chronic constipation. The causes of chronic constipation aren't always clear but a few things that could be affecting your regularity are medication, diet, exercise and hormones. Get a hold of your doctor to discuss your symptoms and plan a visit to evaluate how it can be treated. If you have a blockage make an immediate visit to the doctor to have it examined, though it is uncommon for it to be fatal, the risk is still present.

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