Constipation is a common gastrointestinal disorder. It’s statistically one of the highest reasons for a person to visit a doctor. After all, haven’t you used the “upset tummy” excuse to get off from school when you were a kid? As you grow older, this benign excuse may have turned into a problem that’s real. Nothing makes you feel like being stuck in a limbo more than constipation.
The question is, are you suffering from chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) or just “regular” constipation?
Here’s how you can check:
- Do you pass stools less than three times per week?
- While passing stools, do you face difficulties?
- After passing stools, does it feel like the evacuation is incomplete?
- Do you feel pain or strain while passing stools?
- Are the stools hard and lumpy?
- Does a considerable amount of time pass between two bowel motions?
If you’ve answered yes for more than one of the above questions, then you are suffering from constipation; however, if these symptoms have persisted for a long period of time, you might have CIC.
The term, “idiopathic,” indicates that the cause of the constipation is unknown. In most cases, CIC is a symptom of other underlying medical conditions. In this article, you will learn about some probable causes.
For your reference, the medical codes for chronic idiopathic constipation ICD 9 is designated under 564.09 and chronic idiopathic constipation ICD 10 is under the more recent K59.09.
Know the Difference: Chronic Idiopathic Constipation Vs IBS
Chronic idiopathic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) have many symptoms in common. What sets them apart is that people with CIC don’t have abdominal pains. So, if you show symptoms of constipation along with abdominal pain, it’s IBS, otherwise, it’s CIC.
If it’s hard for you to judge whether it’s IBS or CIC, consult your doctor. The chronic idiopathic constipation prevalence has alerted the medical field, so doctors are ready to treat your constipation issues, whatever they happen to be.
Avoid or Reduce Your Chances: Know the Reasons for Chronic Idiopathic Constipation
Although there is nothing that directly presents itself as the cause of chronic constipation, there are many factors that come into play. Understanding these factors will help you improve your general bowel health and decrease the occurrence of constipation. In this manner, the chances of your situation escalating into a chronic condition reduce. If you are suffering from CIC, then the information here will help reduce your discomfort.
So, let’s look at the probable causes of constipation:
1. Lack of Fluid Intake
Your body requires a lot of water to maintain the different physiological processes in the body. Apart from water in its pure form, the body also gets water from foods that you eat and other beverages that you drink. Despite this, most people go through their day semi-dehydrated.
If your water intake is sub-optimal, the body extracts more water from your stools and as a result, your stools become hard and lumpy. This results in inefficient bowel movement and hence constipation.
To ensure that you get enough water, follow these guidelines:
- Drink a glass of water immediately after you wake up. In fact, you can go to sleep with a glass of water next to you.
- Make sure you have a glass of water 30 minutes before every meal. During the meal, drink half a glass of water sip by sip.
- Don’t let your throat become dry and parched. If so, drink water immediately.
- Carry a bottle of water with you if you step out of your office or home. Buy an attractive bottle that you’d like to take along with you.
- Set a reminder. If drinking water is not a habit, set alarms on your phone to remind you to hydrate.
- Pay attention to the color of your urine. If it’s not clear, then your body needs more water.
- Be creative. You can also flavor your water to make it more palatable, lemon juice being the ideal choice.
Don’t rely on your thirst. Ideally, you should not wait till you’re thirsty to drink water.
2. Not Enough Fiber in Your Diet
Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. Fiber provides no nutritional value to your diet, but it is essential for maintaining good bowel health. If you need more advice on what to eat, be sure to ask your doctor about the chronic idiopathic constipation diet.
The benefits of fiber are as follows:
- Dietary fiber increases the bulk of your stools. Bulky stools are easier to pass, reducing your chances of constipation.
- Your risk of developing hemorrhoids or small pouches in your colon decreases if you have enough fiber in your diet.
- Fiber brings down the level of bad cholesterol in your blood.
- It becomes easier for the body to manage blood sugar levels if your diet is rich in fiber.
- If you want to maintain a healthy weight, include required quantity of fiber in your daily intake.
- Fiber also protects you from colorectal cancer.
Most of the foods that we eat these days are refined or processed foods. Such foods don’t contain enough fiber. To make sure you get your daily quota of fiber, follow these suggestions:
- Include whole grain products in your diet. For instance, instead of eating white bread, switch to whole wheat bread.
- Eat fruits and vegetables as one meal.
- Cook with beans, peas and other legumes.
- Snack on seeds and nuts in between meals. Warning, nuts and seeds are calorie dense. So don’t eat a lot – a small handful will do.
- Learn to read nutrition labels on products. Choose products in which 10 percent of the total carbohydrates come from fiber.
3. Excessive Intake of Dairy Products
Milk contains a sticky protein called casein. Humans lack the enzymes to break down this protein. As a result, casein is hard for humans to digest. Eating a lot of dairy products leads to casein build up, causing constipation. To reduce intake of dairy products, you should try these tips:
- Do not overstock milk in your fridge. Make it a practice of buying milk daily, rather than bulk purchasing once a week.
- Substitute milk coffee with black coffee. If you take your tea with milk, try switching to green tea.
- Limit the intake of cheese and yogurt.
Try this process to discover your dairy threshold. In the first phase, go without dairy for a week and in the second phase gradually add dairy into your diet. As you do this, monitor the changes in your bowel movement. Stop increasing the intake when you sense any discomfort.
At the end of this process, you will discover how much dairy you can take without upsetting your stomach. Once you become attuned to your stomach, you can experiment with different brands of dairy products to see if some brands work better for you than others.
4. Weak Intestinal Muscle Contractions
Food is pushed through your gastrointestinal tract using cycles of contraction and relaxation to produce a wave like motion. This motion is similar to squeezing toothpaste from the bottom of a tube that’s almost empty. If the contractions are weak, your stools will move slowly through your intestine. This leads to constipation. You can try the following approaches in order to improve your gut motility.
- Drink a glass of warm water before defecating. This helps distend stomach muscles and improves contractions.
- Gently massage your stomach in a circular motion to stimulate colonic motility.
- Learn and maintain proper posture.
- Exercise your abs.
- Include enough fiber in your diet.
Since the muscle contractions are not visible externally, you cannot visually see the improvement in muscle contractions, but you can feel your contractions get stronger during the evacuation process. This step builds on all other steps mentioned before. You will obtain appreciable results only if you work on improving your muscle contraction strength in addition to other changes mentioned here.
5. Hyper Fluid Absorption
When food passes into your colon, the body absorbs any remaining minerals into the bloodstream. Water is also absorbed in the colon; however, if the body absorbs too much water, the stools become thick and hard. This makes it tougher for the body to move it out. Consequently, you get constipation.
To circumvent the problem of hyper-fluid absorption, you must ensure that you’re adequately hydrated at all times. Including a lot of fiber in your diet also helps. This is because fiber helps retain moisture, thereby discouraging hyperabsorption.
6. Side Effect of Your Medication
Over the counter medications, such as antacids, antidepressants, cold medicines, and pain relievers, cause constipation occasionally. Medicines that treat high blood pressure or other cardiac conditions cause constipation, as well. If you are overly dependent on any such medicine, it will cause constipation.
If you feel that your medication is causing constipation, consult your doctor and switch to a substitute. If the circumstances make it impossible for you to eliminate the medicine, your doctor can prescribe a laxative to help your bowel movements.
7. Bad Bowel Habits
If you want to prevent constipation and have a healthy bowel movement, then it is essential to develop good habits and eliminate some bad ones. Here are a few things you can change in order to find relief from constipation:
- Do not go into the toilet with your phone. This causes you to spend more time in the toilet than necessary and weakens your muscle contractions.
- Try to defecate at the same time every day.
- Drink a glass of warm water before evacuating.
- Maintain a clean and hygienic toilet.
- Aesthetically decorate your bathroom, use air fresheners, and use good lighting. Make the place visually appealing and relaxing.
- Use a squatting stool to improve your bowel movement.
- Pay attention to any signs of strain or stress.
- Note the texture of the stool – is it lumpy or watery, hard or soft?
If you are a parent, encourage your children to practice good bowel routines too.
8. Blockages in the Intestinal Tract
Physical obstructions in the intestinal tract can cause constipation. You will need to see a doctor to make sure there are no blockages. The doctor will initially prescribe a laxative. If the laxative does not cure constipation, your doctor may perform a colonoscopy to check for blockages.
Depending on the nature of the blockage, you may need surgery or any other suitable intervention.
Another reason for blockage can be an intestinal stricture. Strictures in the intestinal tract can occur as a result of inflammation. Usually, the inflammation doesn’t last for many days. However, chronic inflammation restricts the movement of stool and causes constipation.
9. A Lack of the Urge to Go to the Toilet
Sometimes, you just don’t, “feel like it.”
The nervous system in your body is responsible for signals that tell you when to defecate. This works that same way as other signals in your body, such as when to eat, drink, and sleep. At times, you become less sensitive to these signals. Therefore, you may have the stool in your intestine, waiting to be released, but you don’t go to the toilet. This causes the stools to harden and you become constipated.
To prevent this, you should not depend on your body’s signals. Follow a regular routine, in which you go to the toilet at the same time ever day, irrespective of whether you feel like or not. Thus, even if you’re not sensitive to your body’s signals, you create opportunities for the body to perform its function.
Home Remedies to Manage Constipation
If your doctor hasn’t diagnosed you for chronic idiopathic constipation, but you suffer bouts of constipation from time to time, you can try the following natural treatments to check if the symptoms subside:
- Sesame Seeds: If your stools are dry, then sesame seeds can help remedy the situation. Sesame seeds contain oils that moisturize the intestine and facilitate the passage of stools. You can crush the sesame seeds and add it to your breakfast cereal or salad.
- Molasses: Molasses is a dark brown liquid obtained from raw sugar during the refining process. For the purpose of managing constipation symptoms, you can use blackstrap molasses, which is a concentrated version of regular molasses. Blackstrap molasses contains magnesium, a mineral that helps relieve your constipation. Drink a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses before you sleep. This will improve your bowel movements the next day.
- Fiber: We’ve already discussed the benefits of fiber. Target a daily quota of 30 grams of fiber. Fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes and nuts are excellent sources of fiber.
- Ginger Tea: Ginger tea is extremely effective in solving digestive problems. If you feel your digestion is sluggish, ginger tea will fix that. You can also add peppermint to the ginger tea. Peppermint relaxes the muscles of the intestinal tract and helps improve the contractions. Take a cup of ginger tea in the morning before you go to the toilet.
- Lemon Water: Lemon contains large quantities of citric acid. Citric acid flushes toxins from your body and stimulates your digestive tract. When you drink water to hydrate yourself, you can flavor water with a few drops of lemon juice. This way, you remain hydrated and your digestive system is stimulated throughout the day.
- Coffee: Caffeine stimulates the colon and helps the stool pass quickly. However, coffee is a diuretic, so make sure you drink enough water. Coffee also has a laxative effect.
- Dry Fruits: Dry fruits, such as raisins and prunes contain a lot of fiber. In fact, you can get three grams of fiber from eating three prunes. Dry fruits are also natural laxatives. Including them in your diet will improve your overall digestive health.
- Regular Exercise: Regular exercises enhances the health of all systems in your body, including the digestive system. After each meal, walk for 10 to 15 minutes. In addition to that, exercise at least 150 minutes per week.
- Manage Stress: Stress also has a role to play in poor bowel health. Learn stress management techniques, such as yoga or meditation. Yoga especially can help improve the condition of your bowels.
Lifestyle and dietary choices that we make nowadays have increased the prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases. It is surprising that doctors have observed symptoms of chronic idiopathic constipation in children. To beat this threat, you need to be smart about what, when, and how you eat. Prevention is the best chronic idiopathic constipation treatment.
You may be years away or weeks away from chronic idiopathic constipation, depending on the present condition of your digestive system. But, you can never be too late or too early to start caring for your body. Chronic conditions take years to take hold. If you begin managing your symptoms immediately, you can prevent chronic idiopathic constipation from taking root.
When you tie all the things together, this is what it looks like:
- Drink ginger tea when you wake up, and then go to the toilet.
- While defecating, maintain proper posture.
- Add sesame seeds to your breakfast cereal.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables during your meals.
- Snack on nuts, seeds, and dry fruits between meals.
- Drink lemon flavored water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Walk for 10 to 15 minutes after every meal.
- Drink a cup of black coffee.
- Have a spoon of blackstrap molasses before going to sleep.
Looks simple and manageable, doesn’t it? So why delay anymore? Don’t let constipation be the wet blanket that dampens your day. You can beat chronic idiopathic constipation. Begin the routine today.