Everyone experiences constipation once in a while 3. When constipation occurs for an extended period, however, it can lead to an impacted bowel, which is a much more serious condition that often requires disimpaction by a medical professional 3. It's not possible to cleanse a colon that is already impacted; however, a healthy diet will play a role in preventing a recurrence.
Constipation and Impacted Bowel
Constipation occurs for many reasons — a low-fiber diet, dehydration, sedentary lifestyle, overuse of laxatives, medication side effects and more 3.cause:
- Constipation occurs for many reasons — a low-fiber diet
- sedentary lifestyle
- overuse of laxatives
- medication side effects
- more 3
It can also be a symptom of a health condition affecting the digestive tract, brain or spinal cord. According to Harvard Health, treatment for constipation is the reason for more than 2.5 million doctor's office visits each year in the United States 13.
Impacted Colon Symptoms
Distended Colon Symptoms
If you have an impacted colon, you will probably know it — or at least know that something more than mere constipation is occurring 3. Symptoms of fecal impaction may include:
- Pain in the abdomen, especially after eating
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- A persistent urge to defecate
- Liquid stool that is leaking around the impacted mass (may be mistaken for diarrhea)
- A generally sick feeling
These are significant symptoms compared to those of constipation, which include 3:
- Having fewer than three bowel movements in a week
- Stools that are small, dry, hard and difficult to pass. as well as being painful
- Feeling like you have to strain excessively to have a bowel movement
- Feeling that your rectum has not been emptied after a bowel movement
Most cases of constipation can be diagnosed and treated at home 3. Fecal impaction requires a doctor's visit, during which your doctor will confirm the diagnosis with an exam and additional testing if required. Typically, your doctor will manually remove part of the mass, then remove the rest with an enema, Harvard Health Publishing explains 1. It's important to note that, although enemas are available over the counter, administering one at home to clear a fecal impaction is both ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Read more: 7 Signs Your Gut Is Out of Whack
- If you have an impacted colon, you will probably know it — or at least know that something more than mere constipation is occurring 3. as well as being painful * Feeling like you have to strain excessively to have a bowel movement * Feeling that your rectum has not been emptied after a bowel movement Most cases of constipation can be diagnosed and treated at home 3.
Preventing Constipation and Impaction
- whole grains
Increase your fiber intake gradually to avoid bloating and gas.
Distended Colon Symptoms
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- Harvard Health Publishing: "Constipation and Impaction"
- Mayo Clinic: "Is Colon Cleansing a Good Way to Eliminate Toxins From Your Body?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Constipation"
- Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: "Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- National Academy of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients"
- Bashir A, Sizar O. Laxatives. In: StatPearls. Updated October 8, 2019.
- American Society of Clinical Oncology, Cancer.net. Constipation. Updated December 2019.
- National Institutes of Health: National Cancer Institute. Gastrointestinal complications (PDQ®)–Patient version. Updated March 7, 2019.
- Zou JY, Xu Y, Wang XH, Jiang Q, Zhu XM. Improvement of constipation in leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy using sweet potato. Cancer Nurs. 2016;39(3):181-6. doi:10.1097/NCC.0000000000000257
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: EatRight. Easy ways to boost fiber in your daily diet. Updated September 5, 2017.
- Liu LW. Chronic constipation: current treatment options. Can J Gastroenterol. 2011;25 Suppl B:22B-28B.
Jody Braverman is a professional writer and editor based in Atlanta. She studied creative writing at the American University of Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Maryland. She also received personal trainer certification from NASM and her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from YogaWorks.