Living with chronic constipation is no fun. It can cause severe stomach pains, loss of appetite, bloating, rectal pain, hemorrhoids and difficulty passing a stool. There are many causes of constipation which can be treated simply by increasing water or fiber in the diet.
Some causes of constipation are less obvious. We discuss five uncommon causes of constipation and suggest how to diagnose the cause and treatment in each case.
The thyroid gland produces the hormone which controls our body's metabolism, the rate of the biochemical process required for maintaining life. When the thyroid gland is underactive i.e. it does not produce sufficient thyroid hormone to maintain a normal rate of metabolism, the body slows down. Typical symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue, weight gain and chronic constipation.
An underactive thyroid can only be diagnosed through a blood test, so those suffering with chronic constipation should consider getting their doctor to check their TSH and T4 hormone levels to possibly rule out hypothyroidism as a cause of constipation.
Chocolate does not normally cause constipation in most adults. However, for reasons not yet fully understood, chocolate is known to trigger chronic constipation in those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 20% of adults over the age of 35 are affected by IBS. It is usually triggered by certain foods which cause pain, bloating, spells of diarrhea and/or constipation. The only way to tell if chocolate is causing your constipation is by eliminating it totally from your diet for two weeks. This includes any foods containing cocoa including candy, muffins and chocolate drinks. Then re-introduce chocolate into your diet and monitor the results to see what difference chocolate makes.
A diet high in dairy products such as milk, cheese and eggs often slows down your digestion. These foods are known to be high in fat and low in fiber which inevitably causes constipation. However, this problem is easily fixed by adding plenty of salad, fruit and fiber to your diet and by lowering your intake of red meat and dairy products. If dairy overload is the cause of your constipation, you'll soon be back to normal.
Antidepressants rather than depression itself are often the cause of constipation, which is a known side effect of many common drugs such as Prozac and Elavil. Try changing your prescriptive medication or use a gentle stool softener to counter the side effects of these drugs. You may also want to introduce more exercise into your life. Exercise not only increases your body's metabolism but also produces endorphins which counter depression, helping you to live without antidepressants altogether.
Several medicinal drugs including antacids are known to cause constipation, particularly if they contain aluminum or calcium. Try to reduce the risk of heartburn by eating smaller meals, less fatty foods and by eating the main meal earlier in the day. By avoiding heartburn you can reducefthe need for those constipation-causing antacids.
Hopefully you have found the possible cause to your constipation and are making the necessary changes in your diet and lifestyle to ensure that constipation is a thing of the past.