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Constipation: The age old problem of old age – or not!

"A very important room in the house!"
"A very important room in the house!"

Well, that is not exactly true, seniors are not the only ones who suffer from a malfunctioning intestinal tract; but folks find that the older they get the more apt they are to suffer from irregularity.

Suffer is the operative word here. Constipation is painful. And it can lead to more serious health issues if not corrected.

For better understanding about what is true and what is a fiction about this physical problem, take a look a the "Myths and Facts" of constipation.

Even babies get constipated. Teens get constipated. Adults of all ages get constipated. So I guess you could say we live in a constipated world – a symptom that most elected officials in Washington can relate to when trying to get a bill passed in Congress.

We will leave the word, “passed” for the moment.

The following information is gleaned from Medicine.Net. You can follow along with this same information by reading more here.

Come on now don’t be embarrassed about the word – say it slowly, take a breath, and accept it as a term everyone knows about. Con - sti - pa - tion! There now we have that behind us…good now we can proceed. (Did I say behind us?)

Myths and facts about Con - sti - pa - tion:

Myth #1: You Should Have a Bowel Movement Every Day

“What's "normal" varies from person to person. Some people go three times a day; others, three times a week. Although having a bowel movement once a day is common, it's fine to go a few days without one. Constipation means having fewer than three bowel movements per week. You're considered severely constipated if you have fewer than one movement a week. Seek medical help for sudden constipation or constipation that lasts more than two weeks.”

Myth #2: Constipation Creates Toxins and Health Problems (Excuse the number of this myth. Ha Ha Ha)

“Some people believe that constipation causes the body to absorb poisonous substances in stools. They believe this causes diseases such as arthritis, asthma, and colon cancer. But there's no evidence that the stools produce toxins or that colon cleansing, laxatives, or enemas can prevent cancer or other diseases.”

Myth #3: Myth: Constipation Just Means I Need More Fiber

“Increasing the fiber in your diet can often help constipation. But chronic constipation can signal a real problem. It can indicate a poorly functioning thyroid gland or diabetes. It can be the result of Parkinson's disease or stroke, or a side effect of medications. In rare cases, it can signal illnesses such as colorectal cancer or autoimmune disease. See a doctor if symptoms last more than two weeks or you have blood in your stools, severe pain with bowel movements, or unexplained weight loss.”

Fact #1: Dairy Can Cause Constipation

“If you're lactose intolerant, eating dairy could cause constipation. One study linked constipation to lactose intolerance in children. Most lactose intolerant people can eat at least a little dairy every day. Talk to your doctor if small amounts seem to constipate you.”

Fact#1: Swallowed Gum Can Get Stuck

(Now this may blow your bubble.)

“It's true -- but only in rare cases, and mostly in little kids who don't know better than to swallow gum. Sometimes swallowing large amounts of gum or many pieces in a short time can form a mass that blocks the digestive tract, especially if you swallow it with other indigestible things. The blockage can cause constipation. But for most people, the indigestible parts of gum move through the intestinal tract and eventually get eliminated from the body just like other foods do. So swallowing the occasional piece of gum is harmless.”

Fact #2: Vacations Can Cause Constipation

“Travel can change your daily routine and diet, contributing to constipation. Avoid dehydration-related constipation by drinking water, especially if you're flying. Also move around when you can -- for example, while waiting for plane connections or by taking rest stops when driving. Other travel tips: Exercise, limit alcohol, and make a point of eating fruits and vegetables.” (We used to always take a sack of apples when driving long distances with the kids – they would eat them or throw them at each other if they got bored playing that old game of, “Are we there, yet? or I gotta go!")

Fact: Mood Can Affect Your Regularity

“Depression may trigger constipation or make it worse. Reducing stress through meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques may help. Acupressure or shiatsu massage may help, too. And massaging the abdomen may help relax the muscles that support the intestines and get your bowels moving.” (The latter is not advised if stuck in traffic, on public transportation, or in a room with someone else).

Myth: Holding It Won't Hurt

You may feel too busy at work to have a bowel movement. Or you'd rather wait until you're home. But ignoring the urge when it comes may not only make you physically uncomfortable -- it can cause or aggravate constipation by weakening the signals over time. Some people find it helps to set aside time after breakfast or another meal for a bowel movement. But no matter when nature calls, answer.”
(However, if you do not go when you gotta to go, when you do go, you might find you have already been. Ha Ha ha)

(Why not save time and make that texting and posting on Facebook serve as a dual opportunity? I know you don’t like that visual on Facebook when chatting with a friend. But it is safer than texting and driving.)

Fact: Medications Can Cause Constipation

“Some medications for pain, depression, high blood pressure, and Parkinson's disease are associated with constipation. Too much calcium and iron can also lead to constipation. Calcium supplements, especially if taken with another supplement or medication that binds the stool, may also cause problems. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns.” (Many patients find it necessary to take a stool softener to help in these situations. The pattern is take a medicine that causes a problem and then take another medicine to correct that problem and the next and the next.....)

Fact: A Low-Fiber Diet May Cause Constipation

“Not having enough fiber in your diet often leads to constipation. To prevent it, try to get at least 20 grams a day, but more is better. Eat more whole fruits and vegetables; replace white rice, bread, and pastas with whole-grain products. Increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid gas and bloating. And water helps fiber pass stools, so drink at least 2 to 4 extra glasses of water a day. Don't expect results overnight -- after a few days of regular fiber intake you should start to see improvement.” (Now tell me how many deer, rabbits, and squirrels do you see waiting in line in the laxative lane at the drug store? How many? However, eating tree bark is not recommended. It is not good for your teeth!)

Myth: All Fiber Is Created Equal

“Eating foods with fiber helps you feel full and stay regular. Insoluble fiber in particular can help ease constipation because it's indigestible and doesn't dissolve in water. It adds bulk to stool and helps it pass through the intestines faster. Good sources of insoluble fiber are whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereal. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. As part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, it may lower heart disease risk. Soluble fiber is found in beans, peas, and some produce.” (Hey fella - watch that bean music and emission system! The bathroom is the second door on the right!" Or supply a gas mask, won’t ya?)

Fact: Prunes Help Keep You Regular

“This small, dried fruit has earned a big reputation as "nature's remedy" for constipation. Prunes (often called dried plums) can prevent or improve constipation symptoms. They're packed with insoluble fiber, as well as the natural laxatives sorbitol and dihydrophenylisatin. The soluble fiber found in prunes may help lower cholesterol. And they're safe for long-term consumption. Children who don't like prunes might eat prune juice ice pops or sip prune juice mixed with another juice to disguise the taste.” (Hey, children aren’t the only ones with taste buds! And what’s with dihydrophenylisatin? Is that something terrorists are putting in our food supply?)

Fact: Drinking Water May Help

“Drinking plenty of water helps prevent dehydration, which can lead to constipation. Liquids can help keep your stool soft to help prevent and alleviate constipation. Talk to your doctor about how much water is good for you. Remember to limit caffeinated or alcoholic beverages -- too many of these can cause dehydration.” (Let’s see… so drinking coffee and alcohol can be good for you because it makes you thirsty and you drink more water???? Don’t think so...folks usually drink more coffee and more alcohol.)

Fact: Exercise Keeps You Regular

“Lack of physical activity can contribute to constipation. Exercise, however, can help make your bowel movements more regular and can reduce stress. Wait at least an hour after eating a big meal before you exercise to give your body time to digest your food. Then get moving! Try a 10- to 15-minute walk several times a day. Stretching and yoga can also help constipation." (Not recommended that you eat high fiber, beans, or prunes before Yoga class.)

Myth: Coffee Can Fix Constipation

“It's true that the caffeine in coffee can stimulate the muscles in your digestive system to contract, causing a bowel movement. So why isn't it recommended as a fix for constipation? Coffee can actually make stools harder to pass because it is also a diuretic, so it draws liquid out of stools. If you are constipated, avoid coffee and other diuretics such as alcohol and caffeinated tea and cola.”

Myth: Colon Cleansing Will Clear Me Out

“Enemas and colon irrigation (high colonics) may temporarily remove body waste, but they're not an effective way to prevent or cure constipation. Enemas can actually cause constipation in older people who get them regularly. Colonic irrigation, which is usually done by colonic hygienists or therapists, can damage the colon and can lead to other issues. Talk to your doctor if you are considering the procedure.” (Yikes! Don’t even want to go there. Enemas are like casual friends – they ebb and flow!”)

Myth: Laxatives Work Immediately

“Depending on the type of over-the-counter laxative you use, you may need to wait a few minutes or a few days to produce a bowel movement. A suppository might work within an hour. But you may need to take a bulk-forming fiber product every day for several days to see results. Most over-the-counter laxatives are meant for short-term use, though. Overuse can lead to other digestive problems. Constipation usually lasts a few days and is rarely serious. Talk to your doctor if you need to use laxatives for more than two weeks. Test drive this one on week-ends or when you are not expected to be at church, school, the office, the shopping mall, or at a party!)

Fact: Stool Softeners Are Laxatives

“Stool softeners prevent constipation by allowing stools to absorb more water from the colon. They prevent feces from hardening -- softer stools are easier to eliminate from the body. Like other laxatives, stool softeners should be taken for short-term relief. Talk to your doctor before combining stool softeners with laxatives or other constipation treatments. In some cases, doctors prescribe stool softeners for people such as surgery patients, who may need to avoid straining during bowel movements. Some preparations combine a stool softener with a stimulant laxative to activate bowel movements.” (Surgery is bad enough – don’t let constipation aggravate and make your recovery even worse.)

Myth: Castor Oil is a Cure-All

“Castor oil is a powerful laxative. But like other laxatives, it should not be used long-term. Overusing laxatives can hurt your body's ability to absorb nutrients and some medications. Castor oil can damage the bowel muscles, nerves, and tissue if overused -- all of which can cause constipation. Use it only with a doctor's guidance.” (Caster oil is not as widely used anymore. Castor Oil, Milk of Magnesia, and home remedies have been passed over for the more modern “chemical” variety of r-e-l-i-e-f. Mothers of yesteryear believed in giving kids a spring tonic; which would clean them out from their ears to their toes. And ouch if a kid was naughty, it could be that the kid was constipated and that is why he pulled the puppy’s tail until it screamed; and out would come the Caster Oil. Warning do not try this at home it could be dangerous!)

Myth: Constipation Is Only an Older Person’s Condition

“Older people are more likely to become constipated. This can be because of medical conditions, poor nutrition, greater use of medications, or not enough physical activity. But constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal issues among other age groups, too. And it's not unusual during pregnancy or after childbirth or surgery. Remember, if you're pregnant and considering taking something to relieve constipation, check with your doctor.” (In days gone by Caster Oil was believed to help an overdue Mommy to go into labor – totally not advised.)

Myth: It's Normal to Have Bloody Stool

“Blood in a bowel movement is not always serious, but you should always call your doctor if it happens. Bright red blood is usually from hemorrhoids or tears in the anal lining called fissures. Constipation and straining during bowel movements can be the cause. Maroon or tarry black blood or clots usually mean bleeding is coming from higher in the gastrointestinal tract. The cause may be more serious.” (Remember a change in bowel habits is one of the seven danger signs in cancer Do not take it lightly if it persists!)

Got any funny stories about being constipated? No? Good. Yes? keep them to yourself.

If you tell anyone I wrote this article, I will deny it. I will swear I have been the victim of identity theft.

Happy going!

While this article is about a serious subject and it is not intended to make fun of the many millions who suffer from this malady, it added a little humor to a taboo subject and like Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Hopefully, a little humor can help this to be informative, helpful, and educational without being too uncomfortable or unpleasant? For in-depth, medical advice and answers to questions check here.

While this is not the everyday normal article by this author, she has written over 2,000 others on a whole range of subject matters. If you would like to be informed via you inbox, you may choose to subscribe using the tab above. It is free. You may also like to read more of this author’s articles by trying these sites on for size.

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