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Article: Controlling Your Bowels

Controlling Your Bowels - Novamed (Europe) ltd

Controlling Your Bowels

It's not unusual to suffer from constipation. One can argue that the less you poop, the healthier you are! But if even a week passes with little or no bowel movements, it may be time to call your doctor.

Here are some symptoms of constipation:
- Hard stool
- Having to push or strain when on the toilet
- A feeling of incomplete evacuation after passing stool
- Straining for more than 10 minutes when using the toilet
- Pain in your abdomen or lower back while doing a bowel movement


If any of these symptoms persist for more than a day or two, contact your general practitioner for a consult. What may seem like constipation may be a sign of something more severe.

Constipation is often caused by a low-fibre diet, lack of exercise and insufficient water intake. It's usually a temporary situation, but severe cases can indicate an underlying condition such as colon cancer or irritable bowel syndrome.

The following tips can help you have softer stools, avoid straining and prevent the onset of constipation:


If you're pregnant and having problems with constipation, your doctor may suggest that you take lactulose or milk of magnesia to soften up your stools. These medications are quite effective in relieving constipation associated with pregnancy and pre-eclampsia as well.

If you're an older person, your doctor may recommend that you switch to a softer diet, especially if hard stools are causing pain or bleeding. In this case, it's best to change your diet gradually so that your body has time to adjust.

For more severe cases of constipation, your doctor may recommend that you take a laxative or stool softener. There are different types of laxatives (senna, sennosides, docusate sodium) to choose from. Make sure you're well-hydrated with these medications and read the bottle's instructions carefully for usage instructions.


Suppose a diet change is not enough to solve your problems with constipation. In that case, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer or diverticular disease. Colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure during which the doctor inserts a narrow tube into the rectum.

If you have a rectum that strictures have damaged, you'll need to undergo surgery. The surgery can be done laparoscopically or through an open procedure. If this happens, make sure you discuss this with your doctor before the procedure.


In rare cases, constipation can signify a serious condition such as blockage in the colon or faecal impaction. In these cases, your doctor may recommend that you go on a very strict diet for the week that is followed by litigation with medication to remove impacted material from your bowels (faecal enema).

Can you overeat fibre? The answer is yes and no. If you are consuming a high fibre and low diet in the water, then yes. But if you're maintaining a reasonably balanced fibre intake and your fibre comes from whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables, then the answer is no.

Several types of fibre are soluble (which dissolves in water) and insoluble (which does not dissolve in water). The body accommodates this "too much" insoluble fibre by excreting it in the stool. If you're concerned about your fibre intake, the best thing to do is to take a food diary for a week or two.

You can also measure the fibre content of your diet by using a stool analysis test. These tests identify the types and amounts of fibre in your stools. The most common tests include pan-biosciences/Benedict's test, gel-pan-biosciences and diazyme/papain.


Guidelines for a healthy diet:
– Consume a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain products and lean proteins.
– Make sure you consume 6-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (or more).
– Eat small meals three times each day.
– Reduce refined sugars, refined grains and saturated fat.
– Drink at least eight glasses of water each day.
– Take a multivitamin to help with nutritional deficiencies.

– Don't forget to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day!
When a person has diarrhoea, he/she will lose more water and salts (electrolytes) than when having constipation. If you're experiencing abnormal loose bowel movements, contact your doctor immediately, as dehydration is always a risk in these circumstances. Diarrhoea is also more common in infants and young children than it is in adults and seniors. Young children often suffer from acute diarrhoea caused by viral infections (rotavirus).

Symptoms of diarrhoea include:

Causes of diarrhoea:

The most common medications used to treat diarrhoea are loperamide (Imodium AD) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Loperamide works on the gut to slow down your stools. Bismuth subsalicylate coats the lining of your stomach and intestines to protect you against stomach or intestinal irritation, especially in cases where cholera, food poisoning, giardia, salmonella or shigella bacteria have caused the diarrhoea.

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