AlzU Blog

The ABC’s of Constipation/Tips for Caregivers-Part II

Causes of constipation continued from The ABC’s of Constipation Part I

Diseases of the digestive system-such as irritable bowel syndrome can cause intermittent bouts of constipation and diarrhea.

Aging- may also affect bowel regularity due to slower metabolism which results in less intestinal activity and decreased muscle tone.

Traveling or change in living situation-causes a disruption in normal diet and daily routines which can easily lead to constipation (particularly in seniors).

Abuse of laxatives-may be one of the most common causes of constipation in the elderly population.  Many people are misinformed and believe they should have a bowl movement each and every day.  This misconception oftentimes leads to abuse of laxatives which can be habit forming-preventing the elimination system to work properly on its own. Chronic use of stimulant laxatives can actually cause damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon.

Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement-when this occurs on a frequent basis, it can result in the disruption in the normal urge to have a bowel movement which can result in chronic constipation. 

Problems with the colon and rectum-such as scarring (adhesions), tumors, diverticulosis, or strictures as well as Hirschsprung’s disease or cancer-all can result in compressing or narrowing the intestine and rectum which can cause constipation.  .

Chronic idiopathic constipation-constipation of unknown origin, that does not respond to standard treatment, this is a rare disorder that occurs most often in women.

Not enough fiber in the daily diet-be aware that not all types of fiber are effective in treating constipation-depending on the cause.  Read more about fiber and constipation in Part III of The ABC’s of Constipation.

There are some serious complications that can occur from untreated chronic constipation, including, hemorrhoids, anal fissure, anal tears, rectal bleeding, bloating, hemorrhoids, abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, bloating, and exacerbation of hernias.  For those with AD, constipation could lead to a sudden worsening of dementia. 

It’s also important to note that with age, the number of bowel movements usually decreases.  This is a factor to consider with laxative abuse in seniors who feel they need to take laxatives daily, when in fact they may have a normal aging elimination system.

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