Constipation is a common condition that affects many people of varying ages across the globe. Clearing bowels is a natural process but for some, it may be a strenuous task. If you do not pass motion regularly or if you are not able to empty your bowel the way you should, it can have harmful effects on your health. Knowing the effects of constipation on your body can help you plan your diet, and routine and seek medical advice if needed.
Constipation, by definition, means having less than three bowel movements in a week.1 However, the frequency of clearing bowels and the bowel movement pattern often varies from person to person. Thus, your bowel pattern is unique to you, and clearing your bowels regularly is important.
Some people may clear their bowels every day but may not be satisfactory enough, which too can be harmful. So, the main features of constipation to bear in mind are
- A feeling of not having cleared bowel satisfactorily or having heaviness in the lower abdomen
- Having dry and hard stools or passing very little at once
- Having painful bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools and having to strain to evacuate them
Chronic constipation is not having frequent bowel movements or difficulty in the passage of stools persisting for longer. This can cause you to strain harder to clear the bowel or not having bowel movements can make you feel bloated and interfere with your daily activities. Thus the effects of constipation on your body can be many ranging from a disturbance in regular tasks to an increasing risk of other health problems.
Effects Of Constipation On Your Body
The effects of constipation on your body too vary depending on the cause of constipation, duration of constipation, other associated factors, overall health status, and also the age factor.
Constipation is often seen in people and young children who do not consume enough dietary fiber or adequate water or rely too much on foods made of refined flour. Constipation is common in elderly people owing to aging muscles, slower metabolism, and inability to process food efficiently. Pregnant women are more prone due to the effect of hormones and the growing fetus in the womb. Certain medications, the presence of some digestive issues, or neurological problems too can result in constipation in some cases.
The effects of constipation on your body are related to the process that leads to the development of constipation. During digestion, nutrients are absorbed and the waste in the form of stool enters the colon. Here, water is absorbed and the solid stools are ready for removal. Dry, hard stools are often a result of not having enough water or dietary fiber that ideally helps in keeping stool soft and aids in normal movement through the intestines.
If you have constipation your movement in the intestines is slowed, which gives the colon more time to absorb water, resulting in hard stools. The ability of muscles and daily physical activity also plays an important role in supporting bowel movement.
Some of the main effects of constipation on your body or complications of constipation include:
- Injury to the anal region when trying to remove hard stools. This can cause bleeding or tears in the lining of the anus called anal fissures.
- Long-term constipation can result in inflammation of the veins around the rectal area resulting in hemorrhoids or piles.
- Repeated straining to clear the bowels can also increase the risk of damaging the muscle of the pelvic floor, which also controls the urinary bladder.
- Straining these muscles can result in urinary incontinence which can cause leakage of urine.
- When the stool gets piled up in the rectal region it can get impacted can cause pain and increase the risk of infection. Sometimes the colon wall may also get inflamed or an infection can develop in pouches.
Other effects of constipation on your body are based on the possibility that ideally, regularly clearing of bowels helps to get rid of toxins. However, when that does not take place, your bowels are not clear, and you may experience a host of other complaints. These include
Having a healthy digestive system helps you maintain healthy, glowing skin. However, constipation or inefficient clearing of the bowels can increase the risk of skin problems. Similarly, hair problems such as hair fall and brittle hair may also be a result of inadequate absorption of nutrients due to an unhealthy gut in cases of constipation.
A 2021 study confirmed that constipation is linked with an increased risk of atopic dermatitis, as the incidence of atopic dermatitis was higher in the constipation group regardless of other factors like age, comorbidities, and medications.2
These effects of constipation on your body must be treated on time to avoid further problems.
Headaches and Migraine
A 2019 study reported that both are linked as the prevalence of constipation in patients with primary headaches is more than that of the normal population. Hence, it concluded that people with migraine should be evaluated for digestive troubles and constipation and their treatment may help in relieving migraine headaches.3
The gut micro flora plays an important role in the absorption of nutrients and maintaining the immune system. A healthy intestinal flora helps in maintaining your health by warding off infections caused by microorganisms. However, constipation causes toxic buildup, increases the risk of inflammation, and impairs immune function.
A study in 2005 reports that constipation is linked with changes in fecal flora, intestinal permeability, and immune response. In the study findings, the healthy gut bacteria were significantly lowered in people with constipation, and with treatment for constipation, the immunologic parameters returned to normal.4
Some of the other common effects of constipation on your body include:
- A feeling of heaviness, abdominal bloating, and pressure in the lower abdominal area.
- Some may feel itchy in the anal region or a pricking sensation due to the hard stools impacted inside.
- These can have harmful effects on your daily tasks, affect your work, and your ability to concentrate.
- Some people may not be able to get good sleep at night or do not feel refreshed during the day due to some discomfort in the abdomen.
- Effects of constipation can leave some with a fatigued feeling, dull, and not active.
Taking the right action at the right time can help. Plan a healthy diet with whole grains, legumes, and plenty of water or fluids. Have a regular physical activity schedule. For persistent bowel issues, any medical concerns, or medications, it is advisable to seek a medical opinion.