Chronic Constipation Or Constipation Alternating With Diarrhea
It is normal to occasionally feel constipatedhaving difficulty moving bowels or infrequent bowel movements. There are a variety of reasons why someone may experience occasional constipation. But if you or a loved one is frequently experiencing constipation, or constipation alternating with diarrhea, it is important to see a healthcare provider or gastroenterologist. Your healthcare provider will be able to run tests to determine the cause of the constipation and recommend for the best course of treatment for you or your loved one.
A More Serious Condition Such As Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common condition that causes abdominal pain with bloating, diarrhea or constipation. The cause of IBS is unknown, but it may be brought on by certain triggers, including:
- Bacterial infections
- Food sensitivity
- Stressful events
If you think you may have IBS, reach out to your doctor for an evaluation. Many times, lifestyle modifications and medicines can help ease symptoms. You may also try some at-home techniques to relieve your bloating.
Bowel Cramps With Constipation
Food poisoning or gastroenteritis are probably the most common digestive causes of acute abdominal cramps. It is particularly common among children and infants. Here a virus, bacteria, protozoa or toxins secreted by these organisms irritate and inflame the gut. This can extend from the stomach all the way down to the colon. The symptoms may start hours to days after consuming a food contaminated with these microbes/toxins, or after contracting the infection through other modes of transmission.
A fever is not always present. Nausea is usually intense but vomiting does not always occur in these conditions. Diarrhea is usually present in all cases and can be profuse and watery. Bowel cramping typically starts from the onset of the first symptoms, like vomiting, right till diarrhea stops. Most cases resolve within a few days even without treatment. However, it is important to ensure adequate bed rest, balanced nutrition and plenty of fluid intake. Dehydration is a major complication that can be deadly if severe and left untreated.
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Constipation Fever Nausea Or Vomiting And Upset Stomach
- Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Reviewed on 7/13/2021
Fever is a symptom that is present with many different types of infection as well as inflammatory conditions. Nausea, vomiting, and constipation are symptoms of illnesses that affect the digestive tract. Keep a record of your symptoms and when they occur. Discuss any troubling symptoms with your physician to help determine the cause and find the appropriate treatment.
While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:
Side Effects Of Constipation
Most people think of the common symptoms of constipation: hard to pass stool with occasional cramping, bloating, flatulence, or abdominal pain. Yet constipation can also lead to additional side effects and symptoms that we dont often associate with it.
Fatigue: Some research suggests that fatigue can occur due to the effects of a decrease in the absorption of nutrients on gut microflora. It may also be that stool sitting in the colon longer causes greater fermentation that in turn leads to mitochondrial dysfunction. The common theme is that constipation seems to cause fatigue because fewer nutrients are being converted into cellular energy.
Nausea: Most people dont associate nausea with fatigue, but it can actually be a fairly normal side effect. Nausea and vomiting are possible either because of an intestinal obstruction or a condition like irritable bowel syndrome. Nausea can also be a side effect of medications that are used to treat constipation.
Weight Gain: New research related to the gut microbiome suggests that chronic constipation may cause otherwise unexplained weight gain. Gut flora have been increasingly identified in a whole host of health problems, and hormonal imbalances that can come about when stool chronically sits in the colon for too long may in fact contribute to the buildup of fat deposits.
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Causes And Risk Factors
Diverticula form in weak areas of the intestinal muscles. They usually arise in the sigmoid colon. This s-shaped section of the large intestine is roughly 40 to 45 centimeter long and found just in front of the rectum. The contents of the intestine put the most pressure on the muscular wall here.
Some people are more likely to develop diverticula because of their genes. Further risk factors include weak connective tissue and problems with the wave-like movements of the intestinal wall. Older and very overweight people are at greater risk, too.
The influence of lifestyle factors hasnt yet been properly determined. A diet that is low in fiber can lead to constipation and hard stools, so it seems logical that too little fiber should increase the risk of diverticular disease. Eating a lot of red meat, smoking and not getting enough movement are also believed to be risk factors.
Its still not clear how diverticula become inflamed and what increases the risk of this happening. But inflammation is believed to be more likely in areas of reduced blood supply and if hard lumps of stool form in the diverticula.
Complications are more common in people who have a weakened immune system or severe kidney disease. The long-term use of particular medications probably increases the risk of more serious complications. These medications include non-steroidal , steroids, acetylsalicylic acid and opiates.
Here’s Why Constipation Can Cause Nausea And What To Do About It
Some estimates suggest that nearly one-quarter of adults in the U.S. are affected by constipation. Constipation is a gastrointestinal condition defined by several symptoms, including pooping fewer than three times per week, stools that are hard, dry or difficult to pass or the feeling that you’re not having a complete BM when you do go, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases .
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When things are just not moving through as they should, you might also lose your appetite, feel bloated or notice abdominal distension, Dr. Abraham says.
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Why Constipation Can Cause Nausea
So, here’s what’s going on: One reason you may have constipation is that your colon is slow to move. “With decreased motility in your colon, your whole GI tract may slow, including your upper GI tract, which may manifest as nausea,” Dr. Abraham says. In severe cases, this can lead to vomiting.
Another thing that happens: Your GI tract is in communication with its different parts . If your colon is full of stool, it’ll relay a message to your stomach to say, “Hey! We don’t need more.” There’s also a hormonal reflex that happens when you do eat â your stomach then tells your colon to get moving and empty out. But if that move-along process is slow, the whole feedback mechanism can result in nausea.
Other causes of constipation include pelvic floor dysfunction, where the muscles of the pelvic floor, which facilitate going to the bathroom, are not coordinating to correctly relax and contract. “Many people with this issue will have nausea,” Dr. Abraham says.
Lastly, constipation can also happen if you have dysbiosis, which is a fancy way of saying that your gut microbiome is unbalanced. This won’t directly lead to nausea but it can cause constipation.
“For people who have a chronic history of constipation, some of the bacteria that normally live in the colon can back up into the small bowel. When these bacteria propagate in the small intestine, you can get small bacterial intestinal overgrowth ,” Dr. Abraham explains.
How Is Constipation Treated
Most cases of mild to moderate constipation can be managed by you at home. Self-care starts by taking an inventory of what you eat and drink and then making changes.
Some recommendations to help relieve your constipation include:
- Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day. Avoid caffeine-containing drinks and alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
- Add fruits, vegetables whole grains and other high-fiber foods to your diet. Eat fewer high-fat foods, like meat, eggs and cheese.
- Eat prunes and/or bran cereal.
- Keep a food diary and single out foods that constipate you.
- Get moving, exercise.
- Check how you sit on the toilet. Raising your feet, leaning back or squatting may make having a bowel movement easier.
- Add an over-the-counter supplemental fiber to your diet .
- If needed, take a very mild over-the-counter stool softener or laxative . Mineral oil enemas, like Fleet®, and stimulant laxatives, like bisacodyl or senna , are other options. There are many laxative choices. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for help in making a choice. Do not use laxatives for more than two weeks without calling your doctor. Overuse of laxatives can worsen your symptoms.
- Do not read, use your phone or other devices while trying to move your bowels.
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How Is The Cause Of Constipation Diagnosed
To diagnose the cause of constipation, your doctor will ask you several questions related to your symptoms including:
- How long have you been experiencing constipation?
- Is your constipation constant or does it come and go?
- What, if anything, seems to make your constipation better or worse?
- Are you experiencing any other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or nausea?
- Do you to have a bowel movement?
- Do you see blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet?
- How much water do you drink throughout the day?
- How would you describe your diet? How much fiber, in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, do you eat each day?
- Have you started any new medications recently?
- Do you have a family history of , including colon cancer?
- What other medical conditions do you have?
After reviewing your medical history, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam. This may include a . Your doctor may also order several tests and exams including:
- Anal sphincter testing, including tests to measure muscle strength and muscle speed
- Blood tests to check blood cell counts, electrolyte levels, and hormone levels, such as thyroid hormone
- Colonic transit study, which measures how well food moves through the colon
- Defecography testing, which uses imaging exams, such as X-ray or , to visualize muscle function
- Internal examinations, including and sigmoidoscopy
- X-rays with contrast agents to check for intestinal blockages
What Causes Abdominal Pain
There are many underlying causes of abdominal pain. Some of these are short-term causes that arent serious the symptoms may last only hours or days, and may clear up by themselves. Others are longer lasting and may be more serious.
There are also causes of abdominal pain that require urgent medical attention and may be life-threatening.
Some causes of abdominal pain are more common or less likely in certain age groups or genders.
Children often get stomach or abdominal pain. Some of the most common causes are gastroenteritis, wind or indigestion. Some causes of abdominal pain apply mainly to children, such as colic, intussusception, and testicular torsion. For more information on these, see abdominal pain in children.
Women may experience abdominal pain associated with their periods, pregnancy or problems with their urinary or reproductive system.
Older people are more likely than younger people to have abdominal pain due to heart or lung problems, bowel obstruction, or conditions such as diverticulitis or gallstones.
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Chronic Constipation: What It Is And How To Recognize It
Generally, a case of constipation will start to resolve within a week or so and is typically easily treated with some diet changes, home remedies, and a gentle over-the-counter laxative like Genexas Kids Senna Laxative.
In some cases, though, your childs constipation may actually be chronic, and this requires medical attention.
Chronic constipation is very much associated with feelings of nausea, and many children who have chronic constipation actually end up with a large intestine that has been stretched out of shape which results in your child having extremely large bowel movements, and yes, they might even be big enough to clog the toilet.
If your child does have chronic constipation, these large bowel movements will be constant and can cause extreme pain because of their potential to create anal fissures, which are small tears or rips around the anus that sometimes cause bloody stool. If this does happen, you should keep in mind that they are not necessarily dangerous, but they can be very painful and will likely frighten your child.
Symptoms Of Chronic Constipation
Most typically, when we think of constipation, we think of hard and painful bowel movements, but there are many other symptoms than can occur.
In many children with chronic constipation, the large intestine gets stretched out of shape and the child passes extremely large bowel movements sometimes so large they clog the toilet!
Because of the pain associated with bowel movements, some young children will refuse to pass bowel movements or even attend to the toilet. This can lead to all sorts of conflicts and behavioral difficulties.
When children with chronic constipation pass very large or hard bowel movements they may open up small tears or rips at their anal opening called anal fissures. These are not dangerous, but they can be extremely painful and are often associated with some bleeding with bowel movements. This can be very frightening for parents and children. The fissures tend to occur in little folds of skin at the anal opening and so they may take a long time to heal, much like a paper cut on a knuckle that constantly gets re-opened when you bend your finger.
Many children with chronic constipation complain of frequent abdominal pain or cramps and they are often quite irritable and/or disagreeable.
Some children with chronic constipation have recurrent attacks of nausea and vomiting. This is because the stomach empties much more slowly than usual when someone becomes constipated.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Constipation
Constipation can be an uncomfortable problem. In severe cases, constipation can be painful or even life-threatening. Because normal bowel frequency can vary greatly from person to person, many people may not be entirely sure whether or not they are constipated.
Constipation is a medical condition in which bowel movements become less frequent than normal, and/or difficult to produce. While clinically defined as not producing bowel movements for three days or longer, if a person’s regular bowel schedule is two or three times a day, that person might be constipated if he or she hasn’t produced a single bowel movement after only one day.
Patients may be constipated if they are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:
Abdominal pain and bloating. Constipated patients may feel tightness in their abdomen, or a sharp, cramping pain deep in their gut. They may also feel full all the timeas if they’ve just eaten a large mealeven when they haven’t eaten for several hours. Patients may also feel gassy, but passing gas does not relieve discomfort.
Small stools followed by a feeling of not emptying the bowels. Constipation may cause people to produce only tiny bowel movements. These tiny bowel movements are often followed by frequent and continued urges to “go,” but constipated patients may find they are unable to produce another bowel movement despite the constant urges.
How Do I Find A Healthcare Provider
If you experience any of the symptoms outlined above, please consult with your healthcare provider. If you need a gastroenterologist who specializes in IBD, we are here to helpour Find a Medical Expert tool is a great place to start. There are many factors that go into finding the right gastroenterologist. You may want to consider the following questions and preferences when selecting your gastroenterologist:
- Is the healthcare provider board certified?
- What are their specialties?
- Some physicians have an expertise in liver diseases, IBS, or IBD. You can find a healthcare providers specialty by visiting their website or asking the office staff when calling.
- Do they work with other gastroenterologists or GI surgeons who they can consult with?
- Visit our Find a Medical Expert directory
The Foundation offers a listing of healthcare professionals including adult and pediatric gastroenterologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nutritionists, and mental health clinicians on our Find a Medical Expert Directory. Each professional listed has expressed an interest in IBD by becoming a member of the Crohns & Colitis Foundation. If you need additional assistance finding a gastroenterologist, please contact the IBD Help Center they will provide additional guidance and suggestions for locating a healthcare provider.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation include:
- You have fewer than three bowel movements a week.
- Your stools are dry, hard and/or lumpy.
- Your stools are difficult or painful to pass.
- You have a stomach ache or cramps.
- You feel bloated and nauseous.
- You feel that you havent completely emptied your bowels after a movement.
How Long Will I Need To Take Laxatives For
If youve had constipation for a short time, your pharmacist will usually advise you to stop taking the laxative once your stools are soft and easily passed.
However, if your constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medicine youre taking, your GP may advise you to take laxatives for much longer, possibly many months or even years.
If youve been taking laxatives for some time, you may have to gradually reduce your dose, rather than coming off them straight away. If you have been prescribed a combination of laxatives, youll normally have to reduce the dosage of each laxative, one at a time, before you can stop taking them. This can take several months.
Your GP will advise you about when its best to stop taking long-term laxatives.
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