Regular bowel movements are a part of daily life and good health. They remove excess waste or unhealthy material left over from the digestive process. Though important in a biological sense the details of bowel health are not discussed in polite company for obvious reasons. This has allowed many myths and misconceptions to develop around constipation despite it being a fairly common affliction that most people experience at some point in their lives.
One of the most prevalent myths is the concept of an average or “ideal” routine. People often wonder if their own schedules are unhealthy or abnormal and there is a great deal of misinformation out there pertaining to the subject. The truth is that people develop their own schedules based on diet and daily routine. There is no “typical” guide to healthy regularity. Some people have several movements a day. Some people had only one every couple of days. Medically speaking, less than three bowel movements a week is defined as constipation.
There is little evidence to suggest that the amount of time a stool spends in the colon has any sort of adverse health affect. Companies producing high fiber, colon health products fill the morning talk shows. They insisting that “cleansing” with multiple bowel movements per day is the healthy regular but this is not backed up by any solid research.
Some people, whether due to diet, lifestyle, or other physical causes, suffer from chronic constipation. These people may need to use laxatives to encourage regular bowel movements. However there is a stigma against this as the persistent belief is that laxatives can be addictive or habit forming. According to extensive trials this is not true. The body does not develop a tolerance for laxatives that requires more to be taken to function effectively.
The most important truth to remember in regards to constipation is that constipation is a symptom rather than an affliction in itself. If someone is suffering with constipation there may be other health factors at work. Long term or chronic constipation may be related to disorders in the bowels themselves. These are not typically dangerous, only inconvenient. Acute constipation comes on suddenly and is more alarming because it can indicate a sudden blockage or other drastic change in the body. If constipation is followed by abdominal pain, swelling, or vomiting it is worth seeing a doctor.
Myths about constipation have existed for centuries. Understanding truths about the body and it’s functions can help control and counteract these symptoms and lead to a healthier, less stressful lifestyle.