Constipation is a common issue and about 4 million Americans suffer from it. While constipation is rarely dangerous, it can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful.
As a consequence, many Americans run to drug stores for over-the-counter quick solutions, namely laxatives. Laxatives can be helpful in the short term, but they can mask chronic constipation and prevent you from discovering what’s causing your symptoms.
Aside from masking an underlying condition, food intolerance, or any other reason for constipation, laxatives may also worsen the problem by making your intestines lose muscle and nerve responses.
To help you get a clearer picture of the problem, we asked our experts at Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County in Orange County, California, to explain the causes of constipation, the downsides of being dependent on laxatives, and what can be done about it.
Potential causes of chronic constipation
If you need laxatives regularly, chances are you are suffering from chronic constipation. There are many reasons why your bowel movements aren’t healthy. Here are some of them:
- Excess alcohol and caffeine
- Depression medications
- High blood pressure medication
- Iron supplements
- Opiates for pain relief
- Antacids for heartburn
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Underactive thyroid
- Anxiety and depression
The list above is not exhaustive, and, as you can see, there are many reasons why your digestion and bowel movements aren’t normal. While laxatives can be used for instant relief, treating the underlying issue will remove your need for laxatives and prevent any potential complications.
Why long-term use of laxatives is a bad idea
Laxatives, especially natural ones containing senna, may be found over the counter, but that doesn’t mean they are completely harmless.
Laxatives can cause rebound constipation, meaning your intestines lose the ability to contract properly and move the stool out.
Dehydration may be another side effect of using laxatives, as a lot of water is being pushed out when using them, and with dehydration, electrolyte imbalances can occur too. Electrolytes are minerals that, when depleted, may cause abnormal heart rate and in some rare cases, even death.
The chronic diarrhea so often caused by the use of laxatives may cause rectal prolapse, meaning your intestines may end up protruding through the anal opening.
Get to the root of your constipation
As you can see, chronic use of laxatives isn’t without serious consequences, but if you suffer from chronic constipation and feel the need to use medications, you aren’t stuck between a rock and a hard place.
There are ways you can relieve your constipation for good, and it all starts with a consultation to find out why you are experiencing these symptoms. Contact us to schedule an appointment to kick the laxative habit and find real relief for your condition.