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Constipation's Many Causes and Cures
Date:8/31/2007

Poor diet, medication and nerve-and-muscular dysfunction can create problems

FRIDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- If you've tried loading up on fruits, vegetables and whole grains and still can't get relief from constipation, maybe you need more than a boost of fiber.

"The idea that many patients have, and unfortunately their physicians, if we just keep pushing fiber until the grass grows out of their behind they'll have been treated successfully, that's not really true," said Dr. Arnold Wald, a professor of medicine in the section on gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Wisconsin.

Doctors recommend consuming fiber, because it's easy to take and cheap, he explained, but it doesn't work for every patient. That's because constipation is a symptom that can have many different causes.

About 80 percent of people suffer from constipation at some point in their lives, according to the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. Brief bouts of constipation are normal. But when symptoms persist, people may need to consult a physician.

Anyone who experiences at least two symptoms of constipation for at least three months -- not necessarily consecutively -- over a period of six months is considered chronically constipated, said Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, a professor of internal medicine and director of neurogastroenterology and gastrointestinal motility at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

The symptoms are excessive straining, hard stools, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, a sensation of blockage in the anorectal region, use of digital maneuvers to facilitate a bowel movement, and a stool frequency of less than three bowel movements a week, he said.

People become constipated when the colon absorbs too much water or if muscle contractions in the colon become too slow or sluggish, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NID
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