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Constipation, which has two medical names, costiveness or dyschezia, is a well-known and fairly common condition where one experiences infrequent bowel movements, leading to painful defecation. Although it is more common in older people and pregnant women, it can affect anyone. Constipation itself may be a symptom of other conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer, and having an under-active thyroid gland, among others.

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Constipation can be caused by different things, ranging from the biological to the psychological. One may experience constipation because they do not drink enough water, they do not eat enough fibre-rich foods, or they do not get enough physical exercise. Their constipation may also be the result of emotional problems, eating problems, and stress. In the same way, it can be caused by simply refusing to go to the toilet and instead holding in the stool. One may even experience constipation for no reason at all!

Those suffering from constipation may feel pain while defecating, and may have bloody stools due to anal fissures. Consequently, they may experience diarrhea-like stool between bowel movements. Even after defecating, one may feel like they haven’t completely relieved themselves. Moreover, they may experience stomach aches, abdominal pain, and swelling of the abdomen. However, they will have few bowel movements and may even feel strain during these bowel movements. Prolonged constipation may lead to further complications like faecal impaction where the stool collects in the rectum, and faecal incontinence where one leaks liquid stool.

The most common treatment of constipation is increasing the intake of water and fibre-rich foods or supplements. Some may use laxatives to encourage bowel movements and enemas for mechanical stimulations. If all these do not work, it may mean that one needs to manually remove the stool with his hands, which is called manual disimpaction.

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