One of the common conditions experienced by many in Singapore is constipation. It is characterised by infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools. It can also cause the stools to be lumpy and hard, and are unusually small or large. The typical length of time between bowel movements depends on the individual, varying from person to person.
In general, constipation is described as having lesser than 3 bowel movements in a week. Going for more than 3 days without passing stools should raise alarms, and your stools can get harder and be more difficult to pass.
Identifying the Symptoms
You may experience the following symptoms of constipation:
- Few bowel movements, such as passing lesser than 3 stools weekly
- Hard, lumpy or small stools
- Straining or having trouble during bowel movements
- Belly bloating
- A feeling of not completely emptying the stool from the rectum
- Needing help to empty the bowels, such as pressing on the abdomen using your hands or using a finger to remove stool from the rectum
Your constipation may be considered a chronic case if you have experienced 2 or more of the above-mentioned symptoms for the last 3 months.
Causes of Constipation
Constipation occurs most commonly when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract. It can also occur when the stool cannot be eliminated from the rectum effectively, causing it to become dry and hard.
There are several lifestyle causes, namely:
- Insufficient water or fiber intake
- Changes to what you eat in your diet
- Not being active and irregular exercise
Other causes include:
- Certain medications such as antidepressants, strong pain drugs and iron pills
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Underactive thyroid
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
What Can You Do
You can take the following steps in the event of a constipation:
- Drink 2 to 4 additional glasses of water daily, unless you are advised by your doctor to limit fluids for a different reason.
- For mornings, try consuming warm liquids.
- Eat prunes and bran cereal.
- Incorporate exercise into your week. When you get active and move your body, this helps the muscles in your intestines to become more active too.
- Include fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Avoid ignoring the urge to poop and go to the bathroom as soon as possible.
When to See a Doctor
If you have sudden constipation and symptoms like cramps, belly pain and inability to poop or pass gas, seek for medical help. Look out for other signs such as blood in stools, unintentional weight loss, severe pain with bowel movements and constipation that has lasted for more than 2 weeks, which also require a doctor’s consultation.
You can also see a gastroenterology specialist in Singapore for your constipation problem and know more about your gut health.