For the most part constipation – the uncomfortable condition that makes it hard to pass stools – can be the result of a poor diet, lack of physical activity, medications and even stress. Some would rather hold it in than go at work, school or in an unfamiliar place. This is especially true of children who may fear making a mess, being ridiculed or getting in trouble. No matter the reason why one gets blocked up, if the condition persists for weeks, then it’s likely you’ve developed chronic constipation. If it’s been a while since you have passed a stool, find yourself straining, or have developed hemorrhoids, then it’s time to seek treatment. And your gastroenterologist is the one to help.
A gastroenterologist specializes in ensuring you have a properly functioning and healthy digestive tract. Your visit with your gastroenterologist will include being asked a series of questions about your family and medical history; questions about your lifestyle, to include sleeping habits, diet, exercise and work; and whether you have any additional stressors. He then will conduct a medical exam that includes collecting stool and blood samples; he likely will check your thyroid and examine your stomach to look for any abnormalities and to rule out intestinal blockage. He may also perform a digital rectal exam, as well as order imaging tests such as an X-ray, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. From his findings your gastroenterologist will advise a course of treatment.
If your gastroenterologist determines that your constipation can change through conservative treatments, he may advise diet and lifestyle changes to include —
- Healthy diet. Foods that are high in fiber increase the rate at which stools move through your intestines. Some healthy examples include whole-wheat bread, oats, cereals, rye, raw vegetables, apples and berries, prunes, and nuts. On the contrary, foods that are high in fat and sodium, and processed foods often facilitate constipate and should be avoided.
- Staying hydrated. Keeping your insides hydrated helps soften hard stools, allows the digestive tract to function efficiently and helps to flush out waste. Water is the best. Don’t assume that alcohol or soda are fine just because they are liquid; some drinks may actually dehydrate you due to sugar and salt content!
- Exercise or physical activity. Movement helps with the passing of stools through the intestines by increasing muscle activity, oxygen, and blood flow. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Making time to go. Rushing around in the morning, riding public transportation or simply not wanting to go in a public place all can impact your bowel habits. If you feel like going, you should go. Carve out time in the morning after a cup of coffee or while checking your emails. And no matter where you are on the toilet, take your time to ensure the passing of all stools.
- Increasing fiber. Your gastroenterologist may recommend fiber supplements such as psyllium fiber or stimulants that cause your intestines to contract. He may also recommend osmotics such as milk of magnesia and lactulose to draw water from the intestines to encourage smooth passing of stools.
- Suppositories and enemas. Placed inside the anus, they over-the-counter treatments provide temporary relief by softening the stools closest to the anus to relieve temporary blockage and constipation.
In certain cases, remedying constipation is more than adhering to lifestyle and behavioral changes, as your constipation may be the result of an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Chronic constipation can also be a sign of issues with the colon or rectum, to include intestinal obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, or previous laxative misuse. Depending on your diagnosis, medical treatment or even surgical intervention may be necessary to relieve the underlying causes of your constipation.
Constipation Treatment in Ohio
If you are suffering from constipation, the gastroenterologists at North Shore Gastroenterology can help. Our gastroenterologists and medical staff are recognized as leaders in the treatment of all digestive disorders. Call us at (440) 808-1212 or request an appointment online now at either our Westlake or Brooklyn locations.