Constipation and fecal impaction is not the same thing. Many people think that they are the same. While they both involve the intestines, bowels and fecal matter, they are two different problems that have to be treated differently.
Constipation is the term used to describe slow moving feces or stool through the intestines. The longer it takes for fecal matter to be eliminated from the body, the drier and harder it will become. Symptoms of constipation include passing small, dry hard stools, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, straining, fatigue, bad breath, skin eruptions, abdominal pain, hemorrhoids and irregular bowel movements.
Fecal impaction is the term used to describe a large mass of hard stool or fecal matter that is âstuckâ in the rectum. Symptoms of fecal impaction may be similar to constipation symptoms. However, in addition to those symptoms the individual may have bladder problems, back pain, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, a distended abdomen, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, fever, dizziness and even high or low blood pressure. Individuals who have a fecal impaction may also experience very explosive diarrhea. This diarrhea does not remove the impaction, it moves around the impaction.
Constipation can be very uncomfortable and annoying. Fecal impaction is far more dangerous than constipation. Fecal impaction can be life threatening. Fecal impaction that is not treated can worsen and the individual could possibly die from it.
Constipation can be caused by numerous things including not eating enough fiber, not drinking enough liquids, a lack of exercise, certain medications, changes in lifestyle or routine, ignoring the urge to move your bowels, abusing laxatives, irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, traveling and other various reasons.
Fecal impaction can be caused by ignoring constipation, pain medications, illness and long term use of laxatives. Many people are surprised to learn that prolonged use of stimulant laxatives can lead to fecal impaction, but it is true. With prolonged use the colon can become dependent upon the laxative to aid it in evacuation. When the colon has been exposed to laxatives and stool softeners for a period of time and then it does not get the expected dose, constipation and fecal impaction can occur. To put it simply, prolonged laxative use can make your body forget how to move and evacuate fecal matter on its own.
If constipation is not addressed and an individual develops fecal impaction it cannot be treated as easily. Fecal impactions in the rectum must be removed manually by a medical professional.
Constipation should be addressed at its onset to prevent a fecal impaction. Steps to alleviate constipation can include making changes in the diet, drinking an adequate amount of water, exercising and doing a colon cleanse. Tips to aid in stool evacuation include the following:
- When you are sitting on the toilet, it is important that you do not hold your breath when you are trying to eliminate a stool. A good constipation tip is to breathe in your nose and out through your mouth. Holding your breath while you are trying to pass a stool can actually hamper the elimination process because it closes up the bottom.
- Learn how to push without straining. When you have placed your feet on the stool, simply lean forward and breathe normally. This will enable your stomach muscles to push the stool out without straining. Essentially, you are pushing from your waist.
- You should always respond to any sign that your bowels want to move. Delaying or putting off a bowel movement can aggravate constipation. No matter where you are, if you feel like your bowels want to move, find a bathroom.
Donât let constipation get the better of you. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to keep you bodyâs digestive system in good health and running smooth.
The Colon Cleansing & Constipation Resource Center
Several folks have spoken with me lately regarding digestion problems. We all have suffered at one time or another from the pains of improper digestion – heartburn, nausea, constipation, diarrhea. However, many of the medications that we are given to correct a problem in another area of our body can cause an unpleasant reaction in the digestive system.
The most common problem that I am asked about is constipation. I feel that much of the cause of this digestive upset stems from improper diet. Secondary causes include the dehydrating effects of certain medications, such as pain medications, antidepressants, and others. The dilemma of constipation is that it sets up the body for illness as a result of the retained stool in the bowel. The body continues to try to absorb nutrients from the waste products. The process actually reintroduces toxins to the body. Much of this disturbance in digestion can be helped by taking supplements that contain high levels of digestive enzymes.
These enzymes are vital to the proper breakdown and absorption of foods. They are classified in three categories – amylases, lipases and proteolytic enzymes. Amylases assist in carbohydrate digestion, a process that begins with the saliva in your mouth. Lipases help the body dissolve and absorb fats. Proteolytic enzymes are those which aid the body in assimilation of proteins. As you can see, each group of enzymes plays a substantial role in achieving overall nutrition. A shortage of any one enzyme can lead to problems.
Many times, our fast-paced lifestyle helps generate the digestive dilemma. Eating too quickly, not chewing your food enough times (Mom was right about that), or a diet lacking in fresh foods can cause inadequate levels of enzymes to be ingested or produced by our body. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can go a long way toward correcting trouble with digestion. For example, pineapple and papaya contain bromelain and papain respectively, two key enzymes for protein absorption. Most foods contain the enzymes necessary to digest them. However, refining, processing and cooking foods at high temperatures destroys these vital substances. Therefore, it may be very helpful to use a supplement to aid in the digestive process.
A complete digestive aid needs to contain ingredients which will digest all types of food. To ensure that a supplement is complete, it should contain the following:
Betaine Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) – a pH balancing enzyme derived from beets used to digest meats and animal proteins.
Pepsin – the natural enzyme that breaks down proteins and whose function depends on the contents of HCL.
Bromelain and Papain – powerful enzymes found in pineapple and papaya that act to break down the proteins into amino acids.
Pancreatin – a collection of enzymes secreted by the pancreas into the part of the small intestine closest to the stomach. Pancreatic enzymes break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Lipase – aids in fat digestion, while complex carbohydrates are digested by a combination action of mylase and mycozyme.
Amylase and Protease – two potent digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas, that digest carbohydrates and protein.
Ox Bile – improves fat digestion and combats constipation through the stimulation of the bile flow and improves functioning of the gallbladder.
If you would like more information on any topic discussed in this article, you can contact me through my website address at www.JerryRyanPhD.com or email me at DoctorRyan@JerryRyanPhD.com with your questions.
Jerry Ryan, Ph.D.