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Intestine & digestion

Idiopathic constipation: diet, hydration and physical activity to reduce risk

March 26, 2018

When intestinal regularity is altered with a reduced frequency of fecal emission, it is referred to as constipation. The fundamental distinction is between a primary or idiopathic form of constipation and the secondary form of constipation in which this condition is associated with the use of drugs or the presence of intestinal or neurological pathologies such as Parkinson’s disease. In the case of the idiopathic form, there is no organic cause that can explain the low frequency of fecal emission. It is in any case the most frequent form of constipation and it especially affects certain categories of individuals such as women and the elderly. We talk about this topic with Dr. Beatrice Salvioli, gastroenterologist at Humanitas.


Lifestyle counts

Idiopathic constipation is a functional disorder because there are no organic abnormalities in the gastrointestinal system whose physiological functioning is impaired. In addition to reducing the frequency of evacuations, there are several characteristic features of constipation. Those affected may have difficulty evacuating, or may do so with excessive effort, may have goat-like or hard stools, or may feel incomplete evacuation.


Constipation may also be one of the typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.


The correlation between this condition and lifestyle is very close. For example, there is a well-defined link with sedentariness and nutrition. A diet without an adequate supply of products rich in fiber and water does not promote intestinal transit. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you have the right amount of fiber, drink enough and exercise regularly to maintain good bowel function. This will make the stools softer and easier to pass through the intestine. It is also important not to repress the evacuative stimulus.


“There are international, codified criteria that define functional constipation when defecation is difficult, occasional or incomplete – commented Dr. Salvioli. Other symptoms such as pain or swelling may be present, but they are not the predominant ones”.


While in functional constipation the most frequent symptom is the lack of stimulus for slowing down intestinal transit, in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation is associated with annoying symptoms such as swelling and meteorism. These symptoms often improve if the subject manages to evacuate.


The importance of fibers

Fibers always help intestinal transit when taken in moderation and with the right amount of liquids: “As supplements, fibers work very well because they do not irritate the intestine, which often does not tolerate excessive quantities of vegetables (especially lettuce) – concluded the specialist. The fibers then stimulate the growth of a favorable bacterial flora and this contributes to the well-being of the “belly”. Other types of laxatives, such as osmotics and emollients, are used according to individual tolerability and effectiveness.

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