Anti-Aging: Constipation Becomes More Common With Age

april-_4-aa.jpgConstipation happens to almost everyone at one time or another, and is more common as you get older, but when it becomes chronic, painful or worrisome, it’s time to see your doctor.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), people worry too much about having a bowel movement every day, and may think they’re constipated if they don’t. In fact, the NIA says, there is no right number of daily or weekly bowel movements — regularity is different for everyone. But a reduction in frequency from a long-term pattern or change in the consistency of movements can indicate constipation.

Constipation means fewer bowel movements than usual, and stools can take longer to pass, and can be hard and even painful, or too soft to move efficiently at all. And there is something you can do about it, depending on the problem you’re having.

The important thing to know is that constipation is a only symptom, not a disease. If you are constipated most or all of the time, and have tried various remedies or diet changes to no effect, you should see your doctor to make sure you don’t have diverticular disease.

Diverticulosis is a pouch that bulges outward through a weak spot in the wall of the colon, and is common as people get older. Symptoms can include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. About half of everyone over 60 has some diverticulosis, and there are often more than one ‘pouch.’ If they become inflamed or infected, the condition is called diverticulitis, which can cause abdominal pain and tenderness as well as constipation. If it’s serious, it can include fever, nausea, vomiting, chills and painful cramping.

Other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers, can also cause these kinds of symptoms, so it’s always best to see the doctor.

There is more information on the NIA website about the causes of and cures for constipation, but if you’re just experiencing occasional or mild bouts of constipation, there are several things you should try. First is to include more fiber and water in your diet. A lack of either or both can lead to constipation. An herbal laxative to get things moving again is a good idea, too. And if the condition persists, and you’re something of a couch potato, you need to get out of that chair and do some exercise. The NIA says to find things to do that keep you moving and active — go for a brisk walk every day, or do some yard work — physical activity is important for overall anti-aging health, as well as a remedy for constipation.

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