A very recent study done by the drug company Boehringer Ingelheim has established the percentage of people worldwide affected by constipation to be 12. A total of 13,000 people were surveyed. Other studies quote lower figures but nevertheless most of the medical establishment would agree that perhaps constipation is a widespread affliction.
One explanation for why the statistics change so much is that constipation has historically been an inconsistently defined condition. This explanation is rooted in the fact that constipation varies quite a bit between patients. The variation encompasses not only frequency, but also time spent straining at the toilet and hardness of feces. Some attempt has been made by both U.S. national agencies and private groups (such as the Rome Foundation) in unifying our definition of constipation. Nevertheless, diagnosis is made difficult by such patient to patient variations.
Even after diagnosis, the patient and the physician will face the task of trying to ascertain the fundamental cause of constipation. For some, the constellation of symptoms might suggest something such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Unfortunately there is no cure for IBS, leaving management of its symptoms as the remaining course of action. For others, incongruent control of muslces in the rectum due to sports-related reasons can be a source of constipation. Yet for the largest group, there is no clear cause of constipation. The last group are classified into the “idiopathic” group.
Often first line therapy for people diagnosed with chronic idiopathic constipation is introduction of high fiber into diet. Recent studies show that fiber and fluids are effective in only a small fraction of patients, but because of the ease of application and accessibility of such treatments physicians and patients opt for it often. A high fiber diet can be coordinated by the patient and physician, and fiber supplements are numerous in pharmacies and health supply stores. Response is expected within two weeks, at which time both parties may decide whether the diagnosis and therapy were successful.
There are several other natural remedies which are not fiber-related, examples of which are the class of lubricant laxatives and also anthraquinone herbs such as senna. One should never construe a natural treatment as a safe one automatically. The Federal Drug Agency (FDA) recently forced some natural remedies off the market for safety reasons. Manufacturers can no longer market aloe vera and cascara medications as constipation remedies. Nevertheless, other remedies are available.
There are also a number of prescription-only constipation medications available. Some of these act as laxatives, whereas others are special compounds that modulate the functional properties of the gastrointestinal tract. In recent times, exciting therapies such as biofeedback have been subject to some scientific investigation. Expect treatments for constipation to advanced greatly in the next few years.
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Filed under: Wellness
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