People react differently when they have constipation. Some get worried when they don’t go to the toilet after a day while others panic after a week or more. Many people however view it as a condition that they could treat on their own without seeking medical help.
Some people resort to self-medication and other harmful practices without knowing if it is indeed constipation that they have or not.
Dele Adesina (not his real name), a student said he often struggles to pass faeces whenever he eats a lot of solid food and takes some antibiotics. While saying that the experience is often painful for him, he said he drinks water for relief and has never sought medical help.
Aminotu, a housewife, narrated that she has suffered regularly from constipation for several years. She said she takes vegetable soup whenever she experienced it and only sought medical help when she developed piles.
According to Dr Ben James E, a general medical practitioner at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, many people do not even know what constipation is.
“If they feel uncomfortable for some time, they say that they are constipated. This makes people to approach the condition in a wrong way. They begin to take several drugs like antibiotics and this causes micro-organisms to adapt to the antibiotics. This makes the antibiotics no longer able to cure the diseases in them. Examples of antibiotics that people rush to take for this include septrin, flagyl, ciprofloxacin, amoxycilline, and ampiclox,” he said.
He said some people take herbal concoctions, adding that these items could even worsen their condition or cause other damages to their health.
The physician said constipation can be defined as passage of feaces (defecation) less than three times in a week.
“Sometimes the passage of hard stools, straining during passage of feaces, feeling of incomplete emptying, feeling of blockage in the anus or the use of fingers to pull out stool can tell if a person is constipating, but generally when passage of stool is less than three times a week, then we can say that the individual is constipated,” he explained.
He said there are several causes of constipation and they include the following:
-Firstly a de-arrangement in the processes that enables a person to pass stool such as taking drugs that relax the muscles of the intestine – for example pain killers like diclofenac, some anti-hypertensive drugs ; and drugs like tramadol.
-It can also be due to the nature of what an individual eats such as so much junk, low fluid intake, and low vegetables.
-Infections, like typhoid fever, and certain parasites can cause it.
-Another cause is obstruction in the intestines like intestinal cancers, low potassium in the body, hard stool in the intestine, and spinal cord injuries.
– It also happens when passing stool gives an individual serious discomfort like in anal fissures.
-Some diseases that can also cause constipation include thyroid problems, inflammatory bowel diseases, and diseases in which the body’s immune system causes harm to the body.
On prevention, Dr James said constipation can be a symptom of a more serious disease and sometimes occurs as a result of the wrong attitude towards what and how we eat.
He said such kinds of constipation can be prevented by:
– Developing a healthy eating habit which includes taking a very good amount of water during meals, adding vegetables to meals, and controlling what one eats, that is eating reasonably.
– Developing nutritional hygiene; Eat clean food.
-Not abusing drugs that can cause constipation.
-Developing a habit of moving bowel (going to ease one’s self) regularly.
-Regular deworming of one’s self. Once in three months at least.
-If you take oranges, take the fibres too, bananas are helpful too.
-Visiting the hospital for early evaluation when symptoms of constipation are noticed.
Dr James said the treatment of constipation depends on the cause.
“Like we said earlier, it can be a symptom of an underlying condition. If it is, then the underlying condition should be treated. That is why it is advised that people should visit the hospitals when they feel awkward in their body.
“If the cause is drugs, the drug should be stopped. If it is an obstruction, the obstruction should be taken out of the way. However, some constipations can be relieved by modifying nutritional behaviours, increased vegetable contents in diet, fluid and also increased physical activity.
“Using drugs that can soften stool such as, sorbitol, milk of magnesium. There are many types in the market that your doctor could prescribe for you. Also drugs that can increase intestinal movement like bisacodyl .Sometimes a constipated individual may require manual methods,” he also said.
The doctor advised that because constipation is not just a disease on its own, it is best for anyone who has symptoms to be evaluated by a competent health care provider so that he or she can be treated effectively.