We’ve all experienced constipation at least once in our lives. While most cases are a temporary nuisance, chronic constipation can be concerning. Persistent constipation can lead to complications within your lower digestive tract and be a symptom of another health condition.
Through proper diagnosis and treatment, you can prevent further problems and keep your colon in optimal condition.
In order to diagnose constipation, your doctor will ask details about your bowel movements. The frequency of your bowel movements, as well as physical descriptions of them will help your doctor understand what could be the cause. For instance, if you are only going to the bathroom once or twice a week, you likely have constipation.
Your doctor will also ask about your lifestyle. Your diet has a significant effect on the characteristics of your stool. Fiber is essential for digestive function—it helps make stool softer and easier to move through the body. Make sure you get enough fruits, vegetables, and other sources of fiber. These foods should improve your digestive health.
Your doctor will also ask about your liquid intake. Water is essential for good digestive health. Coffee and caffeinated sodas have the opposite effect. Not drinking enough water or drinking too many caffeinated drinks may be causing your constipation.
Additionally, your doctor will analyze your medical history for any patterns pointing to a health condition. Prepare by knowing your family history and recalling any significant illnesses from the past. You should also disclose all medications, vitamins, and supplements you are currently taking. Many medications have constipation as a side effect.
Your doctor may order diagnostic tests if they suspect your condition is being caused by another illness.
If your doctor suspects blockages, such as polyps within your colon, they may have you undergo a colonoscopy. To measure your digestive health, your doctor may recommend a colorectal transit study. You will take a small dose of a tracking substance, and your doctor will monitor how fast it moves through your digestive tract.
Some constipation cases come from problems with the anus and rectum. You may be asked to undergo an X-ray to check these structures. You may also require an anorectal manometry. In this procedure, a balloon is inserted into the rectum to measure the strength of the anal sphincter.
Lifestyle changes and home-based treatments should be employed for mild cases not linked to any significant health issues. Some of the simple things you can do for your digestive health include:
- Eating more high-fiber food, such as whole grains and leafy vegetables
- Reducing your intake of high-fat food items
- Drinking more water
- Avoiding alcoholic or caffeinated products
Regular exercise can improve your physical condition, as well as stimulate muscle activity within your gut. Building good habits during a bowel movement, such as fixing your posture, can help improve bowel movements.
Also, try to establish a regular schedule for your bowel movements to make your habits more consistent. For some people, stress can trigger problems in the colon. Proper stress management may alleviate symptoms.
Over-the-counter laxatives are also available for temporary relief. However, consult with your doctor before starting laxatives. Long-term or heavy use can worsen your condition and cause other problems.
For more severe cases of constipation, your doctor may recommend prescription drugs. It is important to follow the instructions when taking these medications. These medicines help your stool retain more water and increase movement through the colon.
You may also opt for biofeedback training to teach you how to relax the pelvic muscles. During each session, a therapist will guide you through relaxing and contracting the muscles near your rectum.
In rare cases, patients need surgery to correct the underlying cause of their constipation. A surgeon can remove obstructions, fix tears, and correct any rectal collapse.
Gastroenterologist in Austin, TX
Since constipation is a common condition, gastroenterologists frequently diagnose it and prescribe treatment. Austin Gastroenterology provides high-caliber healthcare solutions for gastrointestinal conditions. Our board-certified doctors prioritize patient satisfaction through every stage of the medical process. From diagnosis to treatment and prevention, our gastroenterologists are here to help you.
We have convenient locations in Austin and other cities in Central Texas. Learn more by calling one of our locations or by requesting an appointment through our online form. We hope to provide you with the best care!