CONSTIPATION: Causes, Quick Solutions in 10 min!

You will find in this Youtube video and in this health and wellness blog article:

- The functioning of the digestive system, the different stages of digestion the anatomy of the digestive tract simplified

- The definition of real constipation

- The causes of constipation

- The complications of constipation

- How to unblock constipation? The different types of laxatives, recommendations and contraindications to the use of laxatives

- How to avoid constipation?

Constipation is a problem that affects many people, it can be very embarrassing and especially unpleasant if it lasts too long.

The functioning of the digestive system, the different stages of digestion the anatomy of the digestive tract simplified

To begin with, I would like to remind you about digestion and intestinal transit.

When we eat food and drink beverages, these different substances mix with saliva in our mouths during chewing. Then the food bolus descends through a tube called the esophagus and reaches the stomach where the food is broken down into nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) to be digested in the small and large intestines.

The different elements pass to the blood to be distributed to the cells of our organs to ensure their proper functioning.

The undigested elements arrive at the rectum (the end of the large intestine) to be evacuated through the stool.

It is important to know that the intestine is made up of several layers of cells, from the inside to the outside of the intestinal lumen, there is; the mucosa, the submucosa, the muscularis and the serosa. Each layer contains different cells that have specific roles.

The mucosa is formed mainly by enterocytes, these cells allow the absorption of different nutrients, they are equipped with cilia called microvilli or brush border, at their upper part. These cilia increase the surface area of exchanges within the intestine, but also the absorption of different nutrients and the pushing of the food bolus within the intestine.

The submucosa is connected to the nervous system.

The muscularis contains smooth muscle cells (they contract involuntarily and rhythmically, unlike striated muscle cells which need a voluntary signal to contract). The role of the smooth muscle cells of the muscularis is to move food through the digestive tract.

The serosa has a protective role.

The definition of true constipation

I would like to inform you that constipation corresponds to a frequency of bowel movements lower than 3 times per week accompanied by bloating, abdominal pain, a feeling of heaviness in the abdomen and pain when the person tries to evacuate the stools which are often dry and hard.

Causes of constipation

The causes of constipation are usually dietary causes and lack of physical activity.

The main cause of constipation is not drinking enough water during the day (less than 1.5 L per day), but also not eating enough dietary fiber,

These fibers are not digested by the body, they help intestinal transit by increasing the volume of the stools and by making them softer thanks to their capacity to retain water within the stools. Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Physical activity promotes blood circulation within the body and the movement of the food bolus through the intestine.

Other causes of constipation are: smoking cessation, stress, age (people over 55 tend to be more constipated), certain diseases that affect the nervous system such as Parkinson's disease (these pathologies can interfere with the proper circulation of nerve messages that allow, for example, the contraction of muscles necessary for the proper functioning of the intestinal transit), hormonal changes can also lead to constipation such as during the menstrual cycle, menopause or during pregnancy

Some medications can also cause constipation such as painkillers of the opiate family (morphine), some antidepressants, antihistamines (against allergies), treatments given to fight against high blood pressure or diabetes, statins given to limit the increase of cholesterol, some medications prescribed against nausea during chemotherapy... It is recommended to drink at least 2 liters of water per day to limit this side effect.

Complications of constipation

Apart from the unpleasant sensation, constipation does not cause any major complications, but it can cause hemorrhoidal attacks. However, one must be careful, because if it lasts too long, it can be a warning sign of an intestinal obstruction (a part of the intestine is blocked by an obstacle, which prevents the circulation of the food bolus).

How to unblock constipation? The different types of laxatives, recommendations and contraindications to the use of laxatives

In case of constipation, it is recommended to first drink a lot of water (2L), giving preference to mineral waters rich in magnesium (Contrex, Hépar, Rozana, ...) and drinking 2 to 3 glasses one after the other to promote the movement of pressure through the digestive tract.

It is also important to consume foods rich in fiber such as flax seeds, prunes, kiwi, wheat bran, ...

If constipation is ever accompanied by blood in the stool, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe bloating or fever, you should consult a doctor.

I would like to draw your attention to food supplements and laxative medications that can help relieve constipation. Their use must be very specific and for a very short period of time.

Indeed, some of these products can be irritating for the digestive system. Used too frequently, they can lead to laziness at the level of the intestinal microvilli and thus promote constipation over the long term. They can also cause a significant loss of potassium or sodium.

There are several types of laxatives: contact laxatives, ballast laxatives, laxatives with mechanical or osmotic action and stimulant laxatives.

In the first instance, it is preferable to use contact laxatives via the rectum, in the form of a glycerine suppository for example. They stimulate the contraction of the rectum and the evacuation of stools. They should not be used regularly, as they can harm the rectal reflex over the long term.

Ballast laxatives are based on plants rich in fiber or mucilage such as seaweed, psyllium or flax seeds.

Mechanical laxatives such as lactose or macroggols. They promote the flow of water into the intestine and make the stool softer.

Lubricating laxatives contain fats such as kerosene oil. However, they can reduce the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, which are fat-soluble (attracted to fat).

Finally, stimulant laxatives such as bisacodyl promote intestinal motricity and are not recommended for pregnant women. Moreover, they can lead to dependence, they should be avoided as much as possible.

How to avoid constipation?

To limit constipation, favour hygienic and dietary measures and use laxatives only when necessary for a short period (less than 8 days).

Dr Noura Marrai (Doctor of Pharmacy, YouTuber Health, creator of the health well-being Pharmaquiz application),

Pharmaquiz YouTube channel:

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