Constipation and diarrhea can be a symptom of an underlying condition. If persists, both the conditions require clinical investigation. Lifestyle changes in constipation and adequate rehydration in diarrhea are the mainstays of treatment.
About 10–20% of individuals suffer from constipation.
People who are at a higher risk are:
- Elderly or bed-ridden patients
- Anyone who has a sedentary lifestyle
- restricted or poor mobility
- Decreased food and fluid intake
- Pregnant women (reasons: increase in fetal pressure, elevated progesterone levels decrease in peristaltic movements)
Etiology: Why does constipation occur?
- Inadequate intake of dietary fiber
- Dehydration or less fluid intake
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise and poor mobility
- Medical reasons: Metabolic disorders (diabetes), Gastrointestinal disease (e.g. hemorrhoids)
- Certain Drugs-anticholinergics, antispasmodics, etc
Symptoms of constipation
- Inability to pass stools at regular intervals
- Straining while passing the stool
- Passing of abnormally hard stools
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- A sensation of incomplete evacuation
- Headache, slight anorexia
- Lifestyle changes:
- consumption of High-fibre diet,
- High fluid intake, and
- Regular exercise
- Use of Laxatives: It acts by increasing intestinal motility, thereby decreasing the absorption of salts and water.
- bulk-forming laxatives: e.g. ispaghula husk (powder)
- osmotic laxatives: e.g. lactulose (liquid)
- stimulant laxatives: e.g. senna (tablets), bisacodyl (tablets, suppositories), sodium picosulphate
(liquid), glycerol (suppositories)
- saline laxatives: e.g. magnesium salts (powder)
The following conditions may show constipation as a symptom. So, it is advisable to consult a Physician for further investigation.
- Intestinal obstruction or perforation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain of unknown origin
Diarrhea may be acute or chronic. There are three main types:
- Osmotic diarrhea occurs when solute retains water in the intestine lumen. Examples of water-retaining substances are sorbitol, magnesium-containing antacids.
- Secretory diarrhea occurs due to increased secretion of electrolytes, like in case of infectious diarrhea
- Motility diarrhea occurs due to decreased contact time of faeces in the intestine. certain drugs or inflammatory bowel disorders cause this condition.
- IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Cancer or Neoplasms
- Metabolic disorders (diabetes)
- Certain Drugs (Antibacterial drugs, NSAIDs, Iron preparations)
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Sudden onset of diarrhea
- Flatulence, Nausea, and vomiting
- General weakness
- Lifestyle changes: Avoid the consumption of dairy products
- Rehydration: Oral rehydration salts to replace lost electrolytes
- Antimotility drugs- Opioid antidiarrhoeal drugs like loperamide