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Here are a few things I didn’t know about constipation -- a subject I find myself reading up on as my aging parents deal with it. And come on, don’t we all deal with it sometimes?
First, it can run the gamut from minor annoyance to chronic problem, and the latter condition definitely calls for a health care practitioner’s help. Just keep in mind this Mayo Clinic definition of “normal” bowel movements: anywhere from three trips to the bathroom a day to about three bowel movements per week.
If the problem has been on your mind for more than a few weeks, it’s time to determine the cause.
Second, in digging for the cause you might find that it is more than diet and lifestyle. Go through the oft-heard list: not enough fiber, not enough hydration, lack of exercise or too much sitting, a certain medication you’re taking, pregnancy or recovery from childbirth.
Beyond these common causes, though, are several harder-to-decipher causes, as outlined in a Health.com slideshow:
-- As an outcome of diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome or another condition
-- From antacids containing calcium or aluminum
-- As a side effect of depression, which can slow down the body’s natural processes, including digestion
-- Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, because sometimes it slows down the digestive process
-- Eating a diet high in dairy and cheese, but not mixing in enough fiber from fruits and vegetables
-- The iron, calcium or possibly another ingredient in your daily vitamin
-- Chocolate. Keep in mind, though, that some research links it to constipation while other research touts its digestive benefits.
Among the medications mentioned in the slideshow as possibly interfering with normal bowel movements are:
-- Antihistamines for allergies
-- Calcium channel blockers
-- Antidepressants with amitriptyline and, to a lesser extent, fluoxetine
-- Painkillers that rely on narcotics
Also, the jury is still out on whether regular use of aspirin and ibuprofen contribute to constipation.