Constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements and the inability to pass stools easily. Some people may explain it as a feeling of incomplete emptying of their bowel after each bowel movement. 25% of the population, with most sufferers being women, gets affected with constipation.
Constipation has a whole range of possible causes. It could be as simple as a result of poor diet, a lack of regular exercise, or as severe as colon cancer. In some cases, underlying medical conditions can also cause constipation.
The length of the constipation cycle is what makes acute constipation different from chronic constipation.
In general, acute or short-term constipation is:
- Irregular, may last for 3 to 7 days
- Caused due to a change in diet, travel, illness, lack of exercise, or by using a medication
- Relieved by laxatives, exercise, fluid intake, or high-fiber diet
Chronic constipation, on the other hand, is:
- Long-term, may last anywhere between three months to years
- Disruptive to a person’s personal or work life
- Not relieved by changing diet or using usual laxatives; needs medical intervention
How Can Chronic Constipation Wreak Havoc With Your Health?
To most people, constipation looks more like a symptom than the actual cause of troubles associated with health. It might be true for many gastrointestinal conditions like gut pathogens, leaky gut, and food sensitivities – for that reason, you need to consult a doctor and uncover the cause of your constipation.
But, constipation itself can have severe effects on your body and might be the root cause of other symptoms and conditions you’re experiencing. Following are the three main reasons why chronic constipation is so dangerous:
I. Toxin Reabsorption
Instead of getting excreted in the stool, toxins, including excess hormones, continuously get reabsorbed in the bloodstream, which causes a series of health issues discussed further in the article.
II. Imbalance Of Intestinal Flora
This imbalance can reduce healthy bacteria and lead to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria or pathogens in the gut.
III. Straining While Passing Hard Stools
Passing solid large hard stools causes a strain on the intestines, rectum, and anal area, which poses dangerous ramifications on overall human health.
8 Side Effects of Chronic Constipation
Following are the most common and uncommon side effects of chronic constipation on a human body:
Constipation and fatigue usually coexist. Decreased absorption of essential nutrients required for daily energy and regular physiological function has a negative impact on energy levels and, therefore, causes weakness and fatigue.
2. Weight Gain
Bloating is a common symptom associated with chronic constipation, but hormonal imbalances related to estrogen have been linked with obesity. When the excessive estrogens are not released, they keep getting reabsorbed into your system and lead to weight gain.
3. Acne and Skin Breakouts
Reabsorption of toxins and waste into the bloodstream via the colon leads to acne and skin breakouts. The toxins attempt to exit the body through the skin, hence this reaction.
4. Brittle Nails & Thin Hair
As discussed earlier, a less than average amount of healthy flora in the gut leads to decreased absorption of nutrients necessary for healthy functioning and growth. This nutritional deficiency directly affects the growth of hair and nails. Excessive reabsorption of toxins into the bloodstream leaves you suffering from thin hair and brittle nails.
5. Poor Immunity
The intestinal flora controls the immune response of our body. This includes removing bacteria, viruses, cell debris, and cancerous cells. The toxic buildup due to chronic constipation leads to a compromised immune system which may cause Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
6. Hemorrhoids & Anal Fissures
Sitting on the toilet for long periods and straining hard during bowel movements can result in painful hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Hemorrhoids are caused by repeated pressure in the anal and rectal veins, and anal fissures are a reaction to trauma in the anal canal during bowel movements. Hard stools and increased intra-abdominal pressure add extra pressure on the veins around the anus and cause hemorrhoids and small tears inside the skin of the anus.
7. Fecal Impactions
Fecal impaction is one of the more painful side effects of chronic constipation on the body. It is a bowel obstruction caused by hardened poop in the colon. A person with fecal impaction may find themselves having watery stools but not really moving their bowels. This happens because of the presence of watery stool behind the fecal impaction. It seeps out around the solid stool. This can lead some people to think they have diarrhea while the actual issue is fecal impaction. In extreme cases, fecal impaction can even cause bowel perforation.
8. Mood & Anxiety Disorders
Recent neuroscientific research has discovered that various anxiety disorders stem from chronic constipation. Mood swings happen to be one of the effects of constipation too.
How to Relieve Constipation
Most cases of constipation can be resolved at home with self-care measures, including fiber-rich diet, exercise, over-the-counter laxatives, and enemas. Chronic constipation, on the other hand, can be life-threatening. If you have less than three bowel movements a week, discomfort during bowel movements, and experience bleeding from the anal area that doesn’t go away with sitz baths and OTC drugs, it might be the right time to talk to your health care provider.
Are you struggling with chronic constipation? How has it impacted your daily life? Do you experience side effects that we haven’t mentioned in our article? What food, medicine, or exercise regimen helps you deal with your symptoms? Let us know by commenting below.