Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.
Most who have been around elderly people know that bowels are a large issue. While I was a medical student, I was working at the VA hospital in Los Angeles and I walked into the pulmonary ward only to find that my patient was snapping at me. I commented that he seemed unhappy. “Mark my words, Doc,” he said. “If you see a grumpy old man, then there can be only two reasons: either he’s constipated or his woman’s giving him trouble!” I knew he didn’t have a woman so… “You got it!” he blurted out. “Now, what are we going to do about it?”
Most people think constipation means not being able to have a bowel movement regularly, but really it refers primarily to the consistency of the stool. If you go every day, but have hard stool it can still be called constipation. There are many aspects of what goes into your mouth that affects the consistency of your bowel movements, which is very important. Constipation can lead many health problems, like:
- Diverticulosis – out-pouching of the lining of the colon.
- Diverticulitis – inflammation or infection of diverticula.
- Lazy colon – difficulty passing stool.
- Polyps – bumps, or tumors, that form on the lining of the colon that may bleed or become cancerous.
- Internal hemorrhoids – enlarged veins high up in the rectum that can break open and bleed.
- External hemorrhoids – enlarged veins near the anus that are painful, itching, or burning.
- Anal fissures – breaks in the skin of the anus that cause pain
- Cancer – rectal or sigmoid cancers are the most common colon cancers.
So, constipation is not a small thing! It’s so important for everyone to understand the stool and how to prevent the complications listed above. We’ll discuss how:
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