see also Constipation in Children, Constipation during Pregnancy
Delayed transit of solid wastes through colon, resulting in irregular, infrequent, or difficult bowel movements; the longer faeces stay in the colon, the more water is absorbed from them, the harder they become, and the more straining is required to pass them; the risk of faecal toxins passing into the bloodstream and adversely affecting the metabolism of the rest of the body is also increased (see Obesity).
Though conditions such as cancer of the colon or rectum (see Cancer), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diverticular Disease, Anal Fissure, and Piles may contribute to difficult or painful movements, the root cause of constipation is usually dietary - not enough fibre, not enough fluids, a lack of Vitamin B1, B5, B6, potassium, magnesium and zinc, too much animal protein (meat, eggs), too many dairy products, too much Vitamin D, too much aluminium, and too much vinegar, pepper, salt, and spices.
If diet is not at fault, cause may be eating meals too fast, not taking enough exercise, tension, Anxiety, Depression, delaying or not regularly obeying the urge to open the bowels, taking antibiotics or abusing laxatives (both of which upset balance of micro-organisms in gut), abuse of certain over-the-counter drugs, especially cough mixtures, hypothyroidism (see Thyroid Problems), liver malfunction leading to inadequate bile production, impairment of nerves supplying colon due to spinal abnormality or injury...
The list of disorders for which constipation is blamed, or in which constipation is thought to play a part, is even longer, ranging from vague symptoms such as 'liverishness' and sluggishness to heart disease and Cancer. The roll call includes Headache, Insomnia, various skin complaints, eye problems, dental problems, Epilepsy, Stroke, Atherosclerosis, premature ageing, Asthma, Tuberculosis, Diabetes, Gallstones, liver trouble, Ulcerative Colitis, Piles, Glomerulonephritis, Rheumatism, Obesity...
If there is bleeding from the anus, or blood in stools, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 12 hours. If there is a marked change in bowel function accompanied by inexplicable weight loss of more than 0.5 kg (1 lb) per week, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 48 hours. Also, if no motion has been passed for several days despite self-help measures, and abdomen is painful, see your medical doctor. Orthodox treatment is by laxatives, suppositories and, if necessary, enemas. In osteopathy or chiropractic, constipation is treated by manipulation; in naturopathy, the colon is flushed out.
In homeopathy, constipation is regarded as a constitutional problem, and is therefore treated constitutionally; bowel nosodes may be given. The remedies given below are for use on an occasional basis only, for example when travel or holidays disrupt normal diet and exercise habits.
Specific remedies to be taken 2 hourly for up to 10 doses
- Great urge to pass stool, but nothing passed, or passing stools and feeling that there is more to come, especially if person is sedentary, elderly, or studying hard, chronic use of laxatives, chilliness, irritability Nux 30c
- Stools large, dry, hard, and burnt-looking, especially in elderly person, dry mouth, head aches and feels congested, abdomen distended, burning feeling in rectum after passing stool, great thirst and irritability Bryonia 30c
- No desire to open bowels until rectum is completely full, even soft stools are difficult to pass, and may be mucous-covered or soft and clayey, sensation of stools getting caught up in splenic flexure (under left ribs, where colon starts to descend) Alumina 30c
- Rectum feels dry and painful when straining, stools hard and crumbly, and only passed every second day, or at longer intervals during periods, stoops feel like wind and vice versa Natrum mur. 30c
- Ineffectual urging accompanied by painful burning sensation, when passed stools are dark, large, hard, and dry, always feeling that there is more to come, person suffers from piles or anal fissure, constipation alternates with bouts of diarrhoea, stools are passed every 2-4 days when constipated Sulphur 30c
- Contraction of anal sphincter not strong enough to expel stool, so stool slides back in again, anus feels sore, stools scanty, hard, and mucous-covered, person chilly and prone to head sweats Silicea 30c
- No desire to open bowels for days on end, then stools are hard and pill-like, bowels lazy, appetite poor, person drowsy during day but wakeful at night, alert to the slightest sound Opium 30c
- No desire to open bowels for several days, then griping, colicky pain followed by passage of large stool covered in white mucus, bowels ache afterwards, person may have piles or an anal fissure and be overweight Graphites 30c
- Rectum feels dry and hot, as if full of sticks or spikes, sensation of knife being jabbed upwards on attempting to open bowels, sensation of fullness in rectum, pain in lower back, crawling sensation in anus, symptoms worse after sleep, person elderly Aesculus 30c
- Boiling sensation in bowels, splinter-like pains last for hours after passing stools as if something has been torn, also burning and itching Nitric ac. 30c
- Sharp griping pains, straining produces little pills which are hard, black, and dry, and at the same time bowels feel as if they are being drawn up towards the spine on a piece of string, person habitually constipated Plumbum 30c
- Great flatulence, no desire to open bowels for days on end, hard incomplete stools passed with pain and difficulty, patches of wind in intestines relieved by rubbing, person craves sweet things and feels worse between 4 and 8 pm Lycopodium 30c
Self-help: Pay more attention to diet, and in particular eat plenty of raw vegetables. Increase fluids and try using natural oils such as vegetable, soya and olive. Always answer the call to stool promptly. Try taking acidophilus supplements. Also take extra Vitamin C and magnesium. For natural laxatives use linseed, blackstrap molasses and dried fruit. Senna pods and proprietary laxatives based on senna should be avoided as they irritate the lining of the colon.
Take some form of brisk outdoor exercise every day, or try the slant board exercises. The occasional cold bath is also beneficial. As a general rule, suppositories should be avoided; however, if dietary or physical measures fail or are not practical, the occasional glycerine suppository (obtainable from chemist) may be used.