Many people experience bouts of constipation throughout their lifetime. Constipation can be caused by a variety of preventable reasons: stress, disruption in a daily routine (traveling), lack of exercise, low fiber diets, medications (ex. narcotic pain medications, antihistamines, or antacids containing aluminum) and dietary supplements (iron supplements). Constipation may also be a symptom of a more serious condition (uncontrolled diabetes, hypothyroidism, cancer).
Treatment of constipation first requires looking at the length of time a person has gone without a bowel movement. While most people will have regular, or daily, bowel movements, some people can go once every 3 days, and still be considered regular. An absence of a bowel movement after 3 days should be considered for treatment of constipation. Treatment of constipation also requires looking for any of the dietary, medication or medical history causes of constipation. For example, a person taking prescription Vicodin for pain will experience constipation because it is a side effect of the medication. If they are to take these types of pain medications for a longer duration, then stool softeners are recommended to prevent hardening of the stools (i.e. constipation).
For the general health and well being, drinking 8 – 12 eight ounce glasses of water a day (depending on body weight) and eating enough fiber (20- 30 grams/day) will help avoid constipation. However, for those that require additional treatment, other medications may be used (consult your doctor or pharmacist).
Alternative therapies for prevention of constipation have included enemas or colonic irrigation. There are divided thoughts and opinions in the medical community on the use of colonic irrigation. Traditional medical practitioners may recommend there use in bowel preparation for a colonoscopy, or to prevent uncomplicated bouts of constipation. While alternative medicine practitioners recommend colonic irrigation to detoxify the body of remaining waste, promote absorption of nutrients, and to maintain overall health of the colon. Not every person may be a good candidate for colonic irrigation (consult with a primary care physician before having a colonic). Persons with colon disease (Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and cancer), abdominal hernia, severe anemia, poor immune function, heart disease or blood vessel disease, or pregnant are not candidates for colonic irrigation. A certified colon hydrotherapist will be able to safely perform a colonic irrigation and provide guidance and education on what to expect during and after the procedure.