Constipation is a common condition that means an inability to pass stools regularly, or a failure to completely empty the bowel. It often produces stools that are hard and lumpy, and either unusually large or small. The condition can be short-term, or it can become chronic, causing considerable pain and discomfort.
Conventional Medical Treatment for constipation
The NHS Choices website has been used here as the source of information about the conventional medical treatment of this condition. Quite rightly it focuses initially on sensible lifestyle advice.
- increasing fibre in the diet.
- adding ‘bulking’ agents such as wheat bran.
- drinking lots of water
But it also recommends the use of paracetamol painkillers if there is pain and discomfort, and warning that children should not take aspirin.
It also warns that constipation can be caused by taking pharmaceutical drugs for other conditions.
This is the first response of conventional medicine if lifestyle changes do not work. NHS Choices mention bulk-forming laxatives, such as ispaghula husks, methyl cellulose and sterculia - to make the stools softer, and easier to pass. It warns that plenty of water needs to be drunk if taking these drugs.
Osmotic laxative drugs
If the stools remain hard after bulk-forming laxatives, osmotic laxative are then usually prescribed. These increase the amount of fluid in your bowels, thus helping to stimulate the body to pass stools. Those mentioned are lactulose and macrogols, and again there is a warning not to take these without drinking lots of water.
Stimulant laxative drugs
These are prescribed when the stools are soft but there is still difficulty passing them. These laxatives seek to stimulate the muscles lining the digestive tract. Those mentioned are senna, bisacodyl and sodium picosulphate, with a warning that they can only be used on a short-term basis.
Indeed, NHS Choices warn that after taking laxatives “for some time”, the dose has to be reduced slowly, and that this can take several months!
Treating faecal impaction
Faecal impaction occurs when stools become hard and dry, collect in the rectum, and obstructs the rectum, making it more difficult for stools to pass along. NHS Choices says that this is normally treated with a high dose of the osmotic laxative, macrogol, followed by a stimulant laxative.
If this does not work, suppositories are inserted into your anus, gradually dissolving, and absorbed into your bloodstream. Bisacodyl is an example of a suppository that is often used.
If this also fails, drugs like Decussate and sodium citrate in fluid form can be injected through your anus and into your large bowel.
Although conventional doctors will usually say that these treatments are entirely safe, they all have side effects. The Mayo Clinic website outlines some of them, and they include difficulty in breathing, intestinal bleeding, skin rash and itching, swallowing difficulty, light-headedness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, unusual tiredness and weakness.
Homeopathic Treatment of constipation
Homeopathy is a medical therapy that will avoid some of the side-effects and adverse reactions of conventional medical treatment. Homeopathy is the second most popular medical therapy in the world, and the most popular holistic system of medicine. Homeopathy is based on remedies made from a variety of different substances, all of which are known to cause symptoms of illness if taken in their normal form. However, homeopathy has discovered that substances that cause symptoms of illness can also cure those same symptoms of illness.
This is the principle of “Like cures Like” on which all homeopathy is based.
The task of the homeopath is to find a remedy whose symptom picture matches the symptoms of a person’s illness. These remedy symptom pictures have been developed over the last 220 years.
The selection of a homeopathic remedy is based on the individual’s symptoms of illness, not on any broad conventionally-defined illness. It is important to stress this. Homeopathy does not treat illness or diseases. Instead it treats an individual who has been diagnosed with a particular illness or disease. The distinction is important, and if you wish to read more about this, click on the chapter “Illness Diagnosis”.
As far as constipation is concerned, homeopathy has highlighted a number of remedies that have been found to be useful in its treatment. The Honatur Homeopathy Online website has outlined some simple remedy pictures for a number of these remedies. All the remedies mentioned are safe, and any remedy that matches the patient’s symptoms will be effective. These simple remedy pictures give some indication of the types of symptoms they will treat.
Bryonia is prescribed to patients who struggle to pass stools. The stools are hard, dry, voluminous and clumped. The patient has generally dry mucous membranes, which is why water intake should be increased.
Calcium carbonicum is prescribed when the patient is constipated but does not feel the urge to pass stools. When he defecates, the faeces are abundant and hard. He doesn’t tolerate milk and always craves eggs, carbohydrates and sweet foods.
Causticum is used for when there is an enormous difficulty in passing stools. All efforts are inefficient because the sphincter is paralysed. This medication is widely prescribed to the elderly.
Graphites is used in patients who can feel the presence of stools but don’t feel the urge to pass them. The stools are large, mucous and difficult to expel. In women, this often happens during menstruation.
Hydrastis is recommended for constipation with false urges to defecate or when the defecation is incomplete. The stomach area is swollen and bloated and there is flatulence. This is a useful remedy in pregnancy or shortly after pregnancy.
The patient who is affected by Lycopodium feels the need to defecate but does not manage to. The passing of the stool is incomplete and the stomach is bloated with flatulence.
The faeces belonging to the patient who respond well to Natrum chloratum are small balls that look like “sheep’s excrement”. The passage of stools is painful and causes small tears and bleeding.
The Nux vomica patient feels frequent urges to defecate, especially after eating and particularly when the intake has been copious. The Nux vomica patient’s bowel movements are incomplete and haemorrhoids are a common problem. The constipation is caused by laxative abuse.
Opium is indicated when the rectum is completely inert. The stools are dry and black. This is the remedy that is used to treat constipation following a surgical intervention. The dose, in this case, would be given once a day for 3 consecutive days.
Silicea is prescribed when there is a severe difficulty in passing stools. The patient feels like the stool is reversing back inside once it has started to emerge. The faeces are hard and large. The patient makes an enormous effort to defecate.
Many of these remedies can be found in simple home-use remedy kits that can be obtained from these Homeopathic Pharmacies.
However, for an accurate, individualised remedy section, patients should consult with a qualified homeopath. This increases the likelihood of matching an individual with a remedy that will work for them. A remedy that does not match the symptoms of an individual’s illness will not work!