Constipation: Stop The Myths!
A rather common problem, occasional or chronic constipation affects nearly 35% of the population. We often underestimate the importance of this symptom, which can lead to complications or be a sign of more serious problems. Here are three preconceived notions to banish on the subject.
1- Being constipated is not serious
We have all experienced this slowing of transit at one time or another, for example during vacations or a trip abroad... Generally benign, constipation can however be acute or become chronic when the problem settles for more than 6 months.
It is an often trivialized health problem but, contrary to popular belief, being constipated is not without risk.
The most acute forms of constipation can lead to intestinal obstruction (a partial blockage of the passage of gas and stool), especially when a plug or fecal impaction forms and can no longer be expelled. This is the most severe complication, but fortunately is very rare.
The slowed transit can also promote urinary tract infections and have often underestimated repercussions on the patient's well-being and social life. Paradoxically, being chronically constipated can also cause anal incontinence.
2- It is impossible to prevent this problem
Although some people are more at risk of being constipated than others, transit problems are not a fatality! The claim that it is impossible to prevent this problem is a common misconception.
It is true that women are two to three times more likely than men to be affected, especially at certain times of their lives such as pregnancy, menopause and the second half of the menstrual cycle. This is also the case for elderly people living in EHPAD, due to sedentary lifestyle and insufficient hydration.
Despite this, it is possible to adopt good habits to boost intestinal transit :
- taking the time to go to the bathroom and not holding back
- Drink enough water (on average, you need 1.5 liters of water per day to be well hydrated)
- make sure you eat enough dietary fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables, flaxseeds, whole grains and legumes
- limit the enemies of the transit that are saturated fats present in butter, cheese, red meat, cold cuts and industrial dishes
- move around every day and, if you don't go to the gym, take at least 30 minutes of brisk walking
- practice yoga because the postures act on the transit and promote physical and mental relaxation
- if necessary, take probiotic treatments to pamper your intestinal flora, which has been damaged by poor transit.
3- There is no need to consult a doctor
Another common misconception about constipation is that this transit problem does not require a medical consultation. On the contrary, any chronic constipation and/or constipation that resists the dietary and lifestyle measures listed above should prompt you to consult your doctor.
When a high-fiber diet, probiotics and herbs are not enough, only a healthcare professional can judge the need for an osmotic laxative such as macrogol or a Microlax-type micro-lavage laxative...
You should discuss this with your doctor because some laxatives, although very effective, are irritating to the intestines and can lead to dependence. Only a consultation can also rule out a medical cause such as hypothyroidism or an obstacle in the colon.
Finally, in the case of anal incontinence and/or weakened muscles to evacuate stool, re-education of the perineum can be considered. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about this, as this re-education is often a great help.