Bowel movements shouldn’t hurt, and you shouldn’t have to strain, push, or spend a long time on the toilet waiting for something to happen. If this describes your toilet experience, you may have temporary constipation — the official term for infrequent, hard-to-pass stools — due to increased cheese and milk consumption, lack of exercise, not drinking enough water, stress, or a low-fiber diet.
But if constipation is your constant companion, you may need to see Dr. Darrien Gaston at Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants. He’s the go-to specialist in Chicago, Illinois, and can get to the bottom of your chronic constipation problem.
Common causes of constipation
Constipation indicates that something’s not right. If your bowels don’t move regularly and your stools are hard and painful to pass, it’s a sign that your digestive system is in trouble. Aside from the situations we mentioned that could lead to temporary constipation, many other culprits can harden and stall your stools, as well.
Constipation is a common side effect of many medications, including:
- Blood pressure medication
- Pain medication, including opioids
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil® and Aleve®
- Psychiatric medications
- Allergy medications
This list is just a sample. Talk to Dr. Gaston about the medications and supplements you take regularly.
Constipation is also a common symptom of many health conditions, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Diverticulitis and diverticulosis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Intestinal obstruction
Again, these represent only a few conditions with constipation as a symptom. Pregnant women are known to experience frequent constipation, as are those who suffer from neurological disorders and organ diseases.
Is it constipation?
Healthy stools are medium to dark brown with a soft-to-firm texture, and they should be easy to pass and have a strong smell. On average, healthy people have bowel movements at least three times weekly, but it’s normal to pass stools 1-3 times daily.
Signs of constipation include:
- Hard, dry, lumpy stools
- Fewer than three weekly BMs
- Cramps, bloating, and nausea
- Painful stools
Feeling like you can’t empty your bowels completely is another sign of constipation.
When to seek medical assistance for constipation
Since constipation may indicate several serious health conditions, you shouldn’t ignore it; it may be a warning sign that your body needs help. So, how do you tell the difference between occasional, temporary constipation and a chronic problem that requires treatment?
Dr. Gaston says he wants to see you if:
- You have blood in your stool
- You experience severe pain when you have a bowel movement
- You’re losing weight without trying
- You’ve had constipation for more than three weeks
- Your stools are black, white, red, orange, green, or yellow
Long-term constipation could point to or cause problems, so don’t keep it in. Call us to schedule an appointment with Chicago’s go-to gastroenterologist, Dr. Darrien Gaston. He can help you get to the bottom of your constipation problem.