Infrequent defecation, often referred to as constipation, occurs when a person is not able to have a bowel movement for a prolonged period of time. Although the normal frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person, constipation is basically when someone goes more than three days without a bowel movement. Infrequent defecation can be caused by a variety of factors, including improper eating habits, the use of certain medications, or medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or colon cancer. Treatment for infrequent defecation depends on the cause for the constipation as well as any underlying medical conditions and may include dietary or lifestyle changes, the use of laxatives, or in rare cases surgical intervention.
Improper eating habits and living a sedentary lifestyle are among the most common reasons for infrequent defecation. Adding more fiber and water to the diet often resolves this problem and causes bowel movements to be more frequent and productive. Foods that contain a lot of fiber include beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits, although fiber supplements are readily available at most pharmacies for those who have trouble adding a sufficient amount of fiber to the diet. Regular exercise also helps to keep the bowels moving regularly and is especially important for those who spend a large portion of the day in a sedentary position.
If dietary changes and increased exercise do not resolve the problem of infrequent defecation, the doctor may want to look at the medications that are being taken. If these medications are thought to be the cause of the constipation, the patient may be given a laxative for occasional use, or in some cases the medication may need to be changed altogether. Frequent laxative use is not generally recommended, as a dependency issue can arise, causing the affected person to develop an inability to have a bowel movement without the use of a laxative. If the constipation is related to a medical condition, such as an intestinal blockage, surgery may become necessary in order to remove the blockage as well as any severely damaged portions of the colon.
Complications such as hemorrhoids, torn anal tissue, and intestinal pain may sometimes develop as the result of infrequent defecation. Some of these complications can become serious enough to require surgical intervention to repair the damaged tissue. In order to prevent serious complications from developing, chronic constipation should be reported to a doctor for further medical evaluation and individualized treatment options.