Contrary to what you might think, men and women do not need to have a bowel movement every day. In fact, what's considered a "normal" or regular bowel movement schedule varies widely from person to person. However, if you pass stool less than three times a week, you may be experiencing constipation. The great news is that constipation, in most cases, is an easily identifiable condition that can be treated successfully with proper lifestyle changes or certain medications. However, if your constipation is chronic or accompanying other serious symptoms, additional tests may need to be performed to ensure that your issue does not have an underlying cause. At Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery, our skilled team of specialists will work with you to determine the cause of your constipation and help you resolve the issue with simple and effective solutions. If you've noticed an abnormality in your bowel movements, contact our North Houston or West Houston, TX teams for guidance.
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SIGNS and Symptoms
While it's normal for some people to not have a bowel movement every single day, you should be passing stool at least every three days. Only having two or fewer bowel movements a week is a definite signal that you are experiencing constipation. Some other sensations that can occur when you're constipated are:
- Stools that are difficult to pass
- Straining to make a bowel movement
- Stool is hard, lumpy, or dry
- Feeling like you are incapable of fully relieving yourself
A bowel movement schedule is considered normal if one passes no more than three stools a day and no fewer than three stools a week. Because the standard for regular bowel movements is so varied, some patients may incorrectly believe that they are experiencing constipation when in reality their schedule is quite normal. When constipation occurs, it is often the result of a combination of three factors: a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, and dehydration. In order to keep your bowel movements regular, it's important to consume enough water, have a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, and other high-fiber foods, and incorporate some sort of physical activity into your routine.
While most cases of constipation are the result of lifestyle habits that can be treated with diet modifications, certain medications, and physical activity, constipation that occurs out of nowhere could be merely a symptom of an underlying problem. Some possible causes for constipation are:
- A low-fiber diet
- Dehydration or not drinking enough water
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis
- Some medications (antidepressants, narcotics, certain blood pressure medications, and more)
- Colon, rectal, or anal cancer
- Anatomic-related issues, such as rectocele or rectal prolapse
- A narrowing of the colon, which can result from Crohn's disease, radiation, or diverticulitis
In the majority of cases, constipation can be managed by implementing healthier lifestyle changes. Our doctors may advise you to incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread or cereal. It's important to make these changes gradually by slowly increasing your fiber intake each day because a sudden increase in fiber consumption can cause gas and bloating. We may also advise you to drink more water and try to increase your daily physical activity. Making good dietary choices plays an instrumental role in keeping good intestinal health. Along with consuming more fiber-rich foods and staying hydrated, mild laxatives and prescription or over-the-counter stool softeners may also help relieve the effects of your constipation. Laxatives should only be taken with approval from your medical provider and should not be overused or taken for an extended amount of time. It's important to closely follow the advice of our staff at Houston Colon and Rectal Surgery so we can help to restore your intestinal health.
IRREGULAR BOWEL MOVEMENTS
Constipation is a common condition that can affect many people at one point in their life. Thankfully, most cases can be treated effectively with proper lifestyle changes and some medications, like mild laxatives or stool softeners. If you are experiencing sudden changes in your bowel movements that have you feeling concerned, please contact one of our North Houston or West Houston, TX offices and speak to one of our skilled colorectal specialists.