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Constipation: The Latest News

August 20, 2016
Plain English Version

constipation It is difficulty in moving one’s bowels. Causes of constipation include the following:

  • physical reasons such as a stricture or tumor;
  • neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis;
  • metabolic conditions such as severe low thyroid or low blood levels of magnesium;
  • a side effect of medications such as opiates like Percoset and Oxycontin; and
  • some antidepressants, anticonvulsants and antihistamines.

A doctor studied constipation. He said medical evidence does not support a lot of beliefs. You do not have to empty your bowels every day. He defined constipation as “fewer than three bowel movements a week.  Or hard, dry and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.” Constipation often can result in abdominal pain or bloat.

The doctor said laxatives stimulated bowel movements. Long-term use of laxatives, when used as recommended, is not a problem. Long-term use of stool softeners is also safe. Some doctors are not aware of these findings.

Exercising may prevent constipation. Regular bathroom time also helps. You should defecate as soon as you feel the need. Some people find a large cup of hot coffee in the morning helps.

Fiber products can help prevent constipation. Drinking a full glass of water before bed will help soften your stool. Drinking another full glass of water after waking up will stimulate your bowel.

There are foods to avoid. These include white rice and other refined grains, unripe bananas, tea, cheese and chocolate.

There are foods to eat. These include beans, whole grain cereals (bran) and bread, vegetables, fruits (dried fruits) and nuts.

When constipation persists, see a doctor.

Source: The New York Times February 8, 2016

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