Constipation is common and it affects people of all ages, according to the NHS. Many of us may experience the odd day where we don’t pass a bowel movement and may feel a little full, bloated or sluggish. This could be due to lack of fibre in the diet, lack of water intake, being away from home, less active, particularly busy or during pregnancy or pre-menstruation. This can often be rectified with some gentle diet and lifestyle adjustments.
If the constipation is a side effect of a long term medication this could be discussed with your health care practitioner.
But longer term functional constipation is defined by the the following over the last three months:
1. Two or more of the following:
a. Fewer than three bowel movements a week in 25 per cent of bowel movements:
c. Lumpy or hard stools
d. Sense of incomplete evacuation
e. Sensation of anorectal obstruction/blockage
f. Need for digital manipulation
2. Loose stools rarely present without laxatives
3. Insufficient criteria for IBS
Constipation regularly accompanying any of the following less common symptoms could potentially indicate something more serious, according to Natalie Lamb, nutritional therapist at Lepicol.
1. Ongoing cramps, bloating and intermittent diarrhoea
“This could be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),” said Natalie.
2. Lumps inside and around your bottom (anus)
Natalie advised: “This could be signs of piles (haemorrhoids) which often get better on their own after a few days.”
3. Abdominal pain which may be constant and persist for several days
Alongside bloating, this could be a sign of diverticular disease said Natalie.
She added: “Diverticula are small bulges or pockets that can develop in the lining of the intestine.”
4. Nausea, vomiting and fever
In addition to the abdominal pain, this could be a sign of diverticulitis, said Natalie, where the diverticula become inflamed or infected.
5. Look and feel very sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal distention, pain and unable to pass wind
Natalie said: “In rare circumstances this could indicate bowel obstruction.”
6. Rectal bleeding
Frequent rectal bleeding and in quantifiable amounts could be a sign of something more serious such as diverticulitis or bowel cancer, warned Natalie.
7. Unintentional weight loss
Natalie advised: “This could potentially indicate malabsorption issues and in rare cases indicate colorectal cancer.”
If you experience any of the above you should contact your GP.
Natalie added: “Please note this list is just given as examples and not to be used as a diagnosis.
“Tackling constipation in its early stages through diet and lifestyle adjustments could just help prevent transition to a more serious condition.
“Lepicol is a three in one combination of gentle psyllium husk fibre which contributes to the maintenance of normal bowel transit, five probiotic strains to help rebalance gut microflora and inulin acting as a prebiotic (food source for beneficial bacteria).”