Myths and Facts about Constipation

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Myth: You must have a bowel movement every day or you’re constipated

Fact: There is no strict definition for what constitutes a normal number of bowel movements. Each body has a unique schedule and regulates itself differently. Some people go twice a day, and others only go three times a week. An obvious change in your normal bowel habits is when constipation may be present.

Myth: If you can release some stool, you’re not really constipated

Fact: You can still have a bowel movement when you’re constipated. However, your stool won’t look the same. Stool will often be much harder and look like pebbles. It can be painful to pass. You also may be able to excrete some normal stools but can’t fully empty.

Myth: Not many people experience chronic constipation

Fact: Constipation, including chronic constipation, is more common than people realize. Up to 42 million Americans experience constipation, making it one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal problems. Chronic constipation affects approximately 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Myth: Eating a high-fiber diet will prevent constipation

Fact: While consuming foods high in fiber is an important part of treating constipation, it won’t guarantee you’ll never experience it. There are many factors that can cause constipation, such as certain medications, neurological disorders and psychological issues.

Myth: Constipation will naturally work itself out

Fact: This may be the case for some people, but it is not always true. People with chronic constipation often need additional help to regulate their system. This can be achieved through a combination of medication, lifestyle and diet changes.

Myth: Only older people experience constipation frequently

Fact: People of all ages experience constipation for a variety of reasons. Constipation is more common with old age; however, it can happen at any stage in life.

Myth: Constipation isn’t serious

Fact: It may not lead to life-threatening complications, but constipation is nothing to ignore. Untreated constipation can cause painful hemorrhoids and anal fissures. It can also greatly impact a person’s quality of life due to uncomfortable and persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, bloating and abdominal discomfort.