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Common stomach problems and how to deal with them vol.3 (constipation)

Updated: Feb 15

Illustration of a man holding his stomach

Constipation is a condition in which the contents of the large intestine remain stagnant for a long time, slowing their passage, and causing more water to be absorbed from the contents than necessary.

As a result, the stool becomes hard and the frequency and amount of bowel movements decrease. There is no strict definition of the frequency or amount of defecation that constitutes constipation.

Constipation is divided into functional constipation, which occurs when the intestine functions abnormally, and organic constipation, which occurs due to tumors, inflammation, or obstruction of the intestinal tract itself. Functional constipation is the most common type of constipation that occurs on a daily basis.

Types of constipation

Atonic constipation

The peristaltic movement of the large intestine is reduced, making it impossible for the contents to be sent out smoothly.

This occurs due to decreased tone of the large intestine or lack of exercise. This type of constipation also causes symptoms such as bloating, loss of appetite, and a feeling of incomplete stool. It is especially common among women and the elderly, and is caused by dietary habits and living environment.

Spasmodic constipation

The large intestine becomes tense and contracts spasmodically, making it difficult to pass contents and defecate. It is relatively common in young people and may be accompanied by abdominal pain. Stress often disrupts the autonomic nervous system and causes the large intestine to become hypersensitive.

Recently, cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), where stress causes the large intestine to become hypersensitive and abnormally function, have been on the rise, causing repeated constipation and diarrhea.

Rectal constipation

Normally, stool is forced into the rectum, creating the urge to defecate and causing defecation. However, if you often hold back your bowel movements even if you have the urge to defecate, the nerves in your rectum become dull. Rectal constipation is constipation that occurs when stool is being passed through the rectum but there is no desire to defecate.

A large amount of stool accumulates in the rectum and water is absorbed, causing the stool to become hard and covered.

How to avoid constipation

Improving lifestyle habits

Constipation is often caused by lifestyle habits, so it is important to improve your lifestyle habits. Keep the following 5 points in mind and gradually improve your lifestyle.

  • regular life

  • get enough sleep

  • moderate exercise

  • regular and balanced meals

  • have time to relax


Laxatives include laxatives that are taken and enemas that are injected directly into the rectum. Laxatives have various effects.

■ Salt laxatives

Salt increases the osmotic pressure in the intestines, causing water to move and accumulate in the intestines. The increased volume of intestinal contents stimulates the intestinal tract and increases peristalsis. Taking this medicine with plenty of fluids will enhance its effectiveness. Examples include magnesium oxide and magnesium hydroxide.

■ Swelling laxatives/wetting laxatives

It absorbs water in the intestinal tract and swells, softening the contents. Additionally, the increased volume of contents stimulates the intestinal tract and increases peristalsis. These include carboxymethylcellulose and Plantago ovata.

■ Stimulant laxatives

It works by increasing intestinal motility by directly stimulating the small and large intestines. Things that stimulate the small intestine include castor oil, and things that stimulate the large intestine include bisacodyl, Switch OTC sodium picosulfate, and herbal medicines such as senna, rhubarb, and aloe. Some of these drugs can become addictive if used continuously, so care must be taken when using them for a long period of time.

■ Intestinal regulator

When you are constipated, bad bacteria in your intestines become dominant and produce putrefactive substances that cause rough skin and stiff shoulders. Intestinal regulating agents such as lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria suppress the growth of bad bacteria in the intestines and give the good bacteria the upper hand. In addition, lactic acid and acetic acid produced by lactic acid bacteria have the effect of stimulating the intestinal tract and increasing peristaltic movement.

■ Enema

Injected directly into the rectum to stimulate the rectum and encourage defecation. Long-term use may reduce its effectiveness, so it is best to use it temporarily for rectal constipation.

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