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Constipation and its Effects


By Disabled World - 2007-10-23

The excretory system is a collection of organs whose main function is to rid the body of all its waste. These wastes may include solid, liquid or gaseous wastes that when kept inside the body for too long may prove fatal.

Liquid wastes or urine is expelled from the body via the kidneys, the bladder and the tubes connected to these 2 organs. The process of eliminating liquid waste is called urinatio. Gaseous wastes are let out of the body by means of the mouth, nose, and the rectum. The process is called burping, when excess gas is released from the mouth; exhaling for when you let out carbon dioxide which is a by-product of respiration; and farting for release of toxic gases by way of the rectum.

Solid and or semi-solid wastes are eliminated from the body through the anus in a process called defecation. Food passes the digestive system where nutrients and other nourishment is absorbed and processed. It then becomes feces stored in the rectum until time of excretion. Food is pushed along the large intestine towards the rectum by waves of muscle contraction called peristalsis. Fecal matter should be expelled from the body at least on a daily basis to ensure that no waste materials are kept inside the body. However there are circumstances that the body experiences difficulty removing solid wastes.

CONSTIPATION is a digestive tract ailment where a sufferer excretes hard faeces. When constipated, the large intestine that pushes the food to the rectum may be moving slowly or not moving at all.

People with constipation may find it extremely painful and/or difficult to defecate and may lead to fecal impaction in the rectum. Stool of a constipated person may be hard and dry. Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints. It is more common in children and older people and affects more women than men.

What causes constipation? The three characteristics of constipation has each their own causes.

Hardening of the faeces may be caused by:

Improper chewing or mastication of food.

Chewing is the first step in digestion and in this stage, food is broken down to smaller bits to make food easier to process in the stomach, and necessary nutriets absorbed by the body. Bigger chunks of food are therefore more dificult to process and are moved around in the intestine.

Insufficient fiber in the diet.

Dietary fibers are the indigestible part of plant foods that absorb water while passing through the colon, making defecation easier. If there is insufficient supply of fiber on your diet, the colon may absorbs all the water in the digested food as it passes through the large intestines.

Dehydration or inadequate liquid intake.

When water is in short supply in the body, the colon will act to restrict unnecessary water loss through the stools.

Medications.

Diuretics that make the body expel water faster than normal contribute to the loss of water in the feces, making it hard and difficult to expel.

Paralysis of the colon or slow peristaltic movement can be caused by:

Medical conditions.

Certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and hypokalemia may cause slow movement of the colon.

Injured anal sphincter.

It is scientifically known as patulous anus. When the anal sphincter is injured, it is either caused by damage to the sphincter muscle itself or the nerve supply of the anal sphincter. This causes an abnormal loss of tone in the muscles surrounding the anus and all contracting actions.

Medications.

Medications such as loperamides, pain relievers and certain anti-depressants may cause paralysis or slow peristaltic movement as well.

Dyschezia or difficulty defecating is usually results from often suppressing or ignoring the urge to defecate.

What complications arise when constipation remains untreated?

Complications may arise if you continue to ignore constipation. These complications include:

Hemorrhoids.

These are caused by too much strain on the anal sphincter while trying to force bowel movement.

Anal fissures.

These are tears in the skin around the anus brought about by over-stretching while trying to pass hard stool. This can also cause rectal bleeding.

Rectal prolapse.

This is when a small amount of intestinal lining is pushed out of the anal opening while straining for bowel movement.

Fecal impaction.

This develops when hard stool are compacted tightly in the intestine and rectum that normal peristaltic movement of the large intestine is insufficient to have it expelled.

Bowel perforation.

This is when the hardened fecal matter punctures through the intestinal wall and spills into the abdominal area. This causes severe infection as waste products of the body comes into direct contact to other organs housed by the abdominal cavity. The severe infection caused by this overflow of fecal matter may even prove fatal when not treated immediately.

How is constipation treated?

Constipation is an avoidable condition. Simple intervention that would entail a slight change of lifestyle can be done to help alleviate constipation and prevent it from re-occuring. Maintaining a well-balanced, high fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, regular exercise, and setting a regular bowel habit can help. Don't ever ignore the urge to defecate when your body tells you you need to, it is never healthy.

In case that the natural approach doesn't help with your constipation problem, enemas and colonic irrigation help trigger peristaltic movement in the bowel. If these still don't work, laxatives are suggested to stimulate bowel movement.

If laxatives and other measures fail, manual disimpaction is performed on the sufferer. This entails manually removing impacted faeces from the rectum. This may be done with or without sedatives or anesthetics. In cases that the constipation reaches intestinal perforation, immediate surgery is required to remove spilled fecal matter from the abdominal cavity.

In today's fast-paced lifestyle, it is easy to ignore what your bodies are telling you. People think they have more important things to do and therefore put off for later the need to expel bodily wastes - be it urine, gas or faeces. In the end it will just cause more inconvenience. To bad people learn their lessons a bit too late.

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