What is constipation?

Constipation is the infrequent passage or emptying of stool through the bowel. People who are constipated find it difficult and painful to have a bowel movement. Among the symptoms of constipation often include bloating, discomfort and dyskinesia.

In nature, it is normal and regular for animals to defecate after each meal. Humans, however, do not follow this model of animal bowel regularity. This may be because humans have learned to control their bowel movements so that they can conform to social rules and values. For whatever reason, human beings are the only animals found in nature that do not defecate after each meal. Considering the frequency of voiding in animals found in nature and the multiple variations that exist in the frequency of bowel voiding in humans, constipation cannot be determined by the number of voids in any one period of time. People are constipated if their stools do not correspond in frequency, consistency and quantity to what they eat.

At some point in our lives we have all been constipated. Poor diet and lack of exercise are usually the main cause. In most cases, constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding the causes, prevention and treatment will help most people find relief.

International statistics on constipation

In the United States, according to the 1991 National Health Interview Survey, about 4.5 million people reported being constipated most or all of the time. Those who reported being constipated most often are women, children, and adults aged 65 years and older. Pregnant women also suffer from constipation, and this is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States, resulting in about 2 million doctor visits annually. Most people, however, treat it on their own without seeking medical help.