Constipation; ‘diarrhoea’ of information on this

Constipation; ‘diarrhoea’ of information on this

Constipation can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating

I have been wondering why I have this urge to write about constipa­tion soon after the month of May during which we indulged in issues of blood pressure. This may have been influenced by the frequent complaints I hear day in day out about constipa­tion. Do all these complaints qualify to be described as constipation?

Many people would rather not talk about constipation but if you have suffered from a bout or two you will definitely appreciate how painful and frustrating it may be. There is this other group of people who is obsessed with constipation and believes that all their problems will be solved once they can move their bowels frequent­ly. Their bad mood is blamed on con­stipation, poor appetite also assumed to be from constipation and consti­pation cannot be excluded from any bout of headache they experience. This category of people swears by enemas and some of the concoctions they resort to could corrode the best of intestines.

Constipation may present as infre­quent bowel movements or extremely hard stools that may cause unbear­able pain. Periodic constipation may be relieved by the appropriate diet, proper hydration and exercise but chronic constipation is often more worrying and may require medical attention. Do not force yourself to be someone else, as individuals our bowel movements vary. Some may go up to three times a day while for oth­ers three times a week is just right. Listen to your body. It may appear absurd that we are discussing consti­pation at a time that Accra is flooded with diarrhoea stools and scattered black bags but some people may find this life-saving.

We will focus on chronic constipa­tion, which occurs when we experi­ence two or more of the following for at least three months;

Lack of exercise can cause constipation
Lack of exercise can cause constipation

• Less than three bowel movements in a week

• Hard stools that are difficult to pass

• Straining to move bowel

• Abdominal discomfort and bloating

• Frequent use of enemas and laxa­tives

• A sensation that your bowel is never really empty.


• Lack of exercise

– Regular exercise promotes mus­cle contraction in walls of the intestine.

• Poor water or fluid intake

– Drink about two litres of water a day

• Poor diet

– Ensure you have a lot of fibre in your meals

– Fruits and vegetables a must and go easy on refined foods such as polished rice.

• Change in routine

– Change in diet and time for meals as well as a lack of proper facilities to move bowel can all set the stage for consti­pation.

• Ignoring the urge

– If you have to go get the right place and go. Ignoring the urge frequently could lead to consti­pation but can we blame those who ignore the urge because they have to pay money for every single episode?

• Overuse of laxatives

– This is akin to teaching your bow­el to wait for assistance before it performs.

• Certain medical conditions

– Medical conditions such as dia­betes, anxiety and depression, abnormal potassium and calci­um levels and an underactive thyroid have all been blamed.

• Bowel Disease

– Several of these and may include irritable bowel syndrome and tumours

• Pregnancy

– Changes in hormones or pressure on the intestines from the foe­tus may cause constipation.

• Side effect of some medication

– Some pain medicines and even some vitamins and supplements may have constipation as a side effect.

• Local pain

– Pain around the anus from infect­ed haemorrhoids or cuts may lead one to suppress the urge.

For some of us the problem may be simpler than we can imagine; our intake is so little the body absorbs virtually everything. This scenario is very common in exclusively breast fed babies and may not be classified as constipation.


Quite often we delay seeking help for constipation but whenever you have any of the following it is better to act fast:

• New constipation

• Fever

• Rectal pain

• Bleeding from the anus

• Anaemia

• Abdominal pain with vomiting

• Weight loss

• Family history of colon cancer or other bowel disease.


Chronic constipation may lead to developing haemorrhoids which may bleed or become painful, tears in anal tissue from hard stools that worsen the constipation and straining may even push rectal tissue out through the anus and may require surgical repair.


Prevention is key and the focus should be on lifestyle modification. In some cases especially involving adults, health professionals may need to manually evacuate impacted stools from the rectum. Medications may be needed or as the causes showed one may have to stop taking some medicines and also certain conditions will need to be treated to stop the constipation.

The least we should all do is to eat meals that are rich in fibre and as stated earlier it includes fruits and vegetables, bran, nuts and seeds. Do not forget to drink adequate amounts of water or other healthy fluids and make sure you exercise almost every day to help speed the transportation of waste through the intestine. This is also a bonus for those who exer­cise regularly because they get some protection from colon cancer. Last but not least; establish a routine and whenever you feel the urge answer in a civilised way and place.


Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Health Essentials Ltd/ Mobissel


*Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exer­cise therapy, fitness nutrition and cor­rective exercise. He is the author of the award-winning book, ‘Unravelling The Essentials of Health & Wealth.’

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – “al­though chest pain is commonly attributed to heart disease, many people with heart disease say they experience a vague discomfort for which PAIN doesn’t seem to be an adequate description”


• Chronic Constipation – Har­vard Medical School (Patient Educa­tion Center) – leaflet

By Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

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