Constipation can sometimes be the only initial problem caused by rectal cancer or colon cancer. A high degree of suspicion should be placed if the patient is elderly, has a family history of colorectal cancer or has symptoms that are progressively worsening over a period of weeks without any otherwise discernible cause.

When it comes to constipation, prevention is far better than cure. For most people, a high fibre diet, rich in fruits and vegetables will result in regular bowel motions.

Consult your doctor if you ever have blood coming out with your stools, regardless of whether it's fresh blood, dried up blood, or blood mixed in with the stools (malaena).

It takes you over completely. You'd think that it couldn't affect every cell of your body, but it does. You can't concentrate. You can't enjoy anything, laugh as loud, put as much effort into anything. It is always - ALWAYS - on your mind. You can't forget about it for a while. It's there when you go to sleep at night. It's there first thing in the morning. Sometimes it invades your sleep - you dream that you have a strong stomach pain. Then you wake up and it's still there.

2 weeks pass, and the pain gets worse. You remember the episode of Ripley's Believe It Or Not from when you were a kid, the guy who had a blocked intestine that killed him, Jack Palance standing next to a display case with what looks like an elephant carcass inside, but it's not, it's the dead man's intestinal tract. You imagine your insides like that, the shit piling up and up behind the blockage, getting so wide that it will never be able to get out through your arse-hole.

As the pain gets worse, so too does the fear. The fear that you will never be able to get through this, because if you actually manage to pass this gargantuan turd, it's wider than your entire body, it will rip your rectum open, and you'll be a young guy with a colostomy bag, and everyone will know, they'll all laugh at you, and you'll never be able to exercise or do any sports because you will have a bag full of shit taped to your belly. You become too scared to go, and deliberately avoid the toilet, which only makes it worse, which makes you more scared to go, yada yada yada.

You have fantasies of going to the doctor, who can use something like a cheese sampling tube to gently remove the centre of your turd, which will collapse in on itself and easily slide out without any pain. You imagine having the stuff beamed out, like on Star Trek. You imagine miraculously being able to go to the toilet, but with no pain, a dry one-wiper that slips out like magic. You know, though, that this is impossible. Surely the crap has bonded with your intestine wall lining, it's been sitting in one place for so long, when it finally breaks loose, irreparable damage will be done.

Nearly 3 weeks now. Sharp pains pierce your abdomen, you think you can't bear it, but you have to. Surely the end is near. You take Andrews twice a day, laxatives, water, fruit, Weetabix, anything that might conceivably soften the stool. The day arrives when you think, this is it, if I don't shit today I will fucking DIE. After three attempts, you give up. Maybe tomorrow.

The day of reckoning. The farts have been liquidy lately, you know that today is make or break time. Several attempts to go already have been in vain. You're at work, you can't sit straight, every 20 minutes you rush off to the toilet to fart, hoping that maybe you can coax the poo out. Every time you go, someone else rushes into the cubicle next to you, and you can hear them shitting their heart out, quickly, easily, mocking you with their normal bowel movements. You begin to hate them, taking it personally. You can't go if someone's listening, even if they are shattering the mirrors with their own anal explosions.

One of the guys that selfishly shits in the other cubicles has diarrhoea. You can hear the grunts, the squits, the liquid splashes, the stream of muddy water.

You are SO fucking jealous. You pray for diarrhoea. You actually pray for it, please God, let me have the liquid shits, anything is better than this.

Then it happens. Finally, after 2 false starts, you strain, squeeze, give it all you've got, hoping not to have a heart attack, it gets halfway and for a moment you just want to choke it back in, it's too painful, it won't come, it won't come, it won't come - but then, with a yell of pain you manage to force it out.

The relief. The sheer, sweet relief. It's over. Sure, there's a whole lot more backed up shit to come out, but it'll be softer, easier, more natural. You rest a while, sitting there, panting, sweating, shaking. It stings.

You stand up, and notice blood on the paper. You promise yourself that you will never, ever, do this again, you will never put yourself through this torture again.

Until the next time.

FAQ: Yes, it really was a 3 week period of constipation, yes it really was that bad. I could think of *nothing* else the whole time, I lived in a limbo of stomach pain and arse-numbness. I am occasionally plagued with the demon, but this one was the worst ever.

Eat lots of fruit, drink plenty of water, this is the best advice I can give anyone. Two pieces of fruit a day, at least 6 glasses of water a day, preferably more. And Weetabix tastes like freeze dried elephant shit, but it's a fucking miracle worker. Just douse the stuff in lots of sugar, it's bearable, and much better than being constipated. Feel free to ask me about this, don't be embarrassed - I mean, really, your story can't be any worse than mine...

Constipation, an undue retention of the fæces or their imperfect evacuation. When the morbid affection is but slight it is of little moment. In most cases, however, there is headache, while if the disease be protracted and severe, colic, hæmorrhoids, cutaneous eruptions, hysteria, epilepsy, or even ileus or enteritis, the last two fatal diseases, may result.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

Constipation is the difficult or infrequent passage of stool, hardness of stool or a sense of incomplete rectal emptying.

Acute constipation refers to a change for the patient, i.e. a change from their normal bowel habits to less frequent/more difficult elimination. Acute constipation usually has an organic cause such as mechanical obstruction of the colon, adynamic ileus (paralysis of the intestines), bed rest or severely restricted activity, or medications. If acute constipation continues long-term or worsens, diagnostic studies should be performed to rule out colonic cancer.

Chronic constipation may be due to functional causes such as hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, uremia, porphyria, irritable bowel syndrome, colonic inertia and megacolon. Neurogenic causes are also possible, such as Parkinson's disease, cerebral thrombosis, or spinal cord injury. Psychogenic constipation is usually caused by the patient's overtreatment of a perceived problem by excessive use of laxatives, cathartics and enemas, resulting in rebound constipation (i.e. the colon loses its ability to function without these stimulations).

Treatment of constipation includes increasing daily fiber intake, increased water intake and exercise. The only laxatives accepted for long-term use are the bulking agents such as bran, psyllium and methylcellulose. Wetting agents are also acceptable because they do not act on the colon itself, but simply emulsify the stool, making it softer and looser. All other laxatives should be avoided if possible, and taken in the smallest dose and for the shortest duration necessary to relieve the problem.

Con`sti*pa"tion (?), n. [L. constipatio a crowding together: cf.F. constipation.]


Act of crowding anything into a less compass, or the state of being crowded or pressed together; condensation.


Fullness of matter, or a pretty close constipation . . . of its particles. Boyle.


A state of the bowels in which the evacuations are infrequent and difficult, or the intestines become filled with hardened faces; costiveness.


© Webster 1913.

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