Constipation affects most people from time to time and can vary from being infrequent to being a chronic, long term condition.
A few different conditions and factors related to diabetes may increase the likelihood of experiencing constipation.
Signs of constipation include passing stools infrequently, and passing hard stools that can involve straining.
The NHS notes that each person will tend to have slightly different bowel habits.
Constipation can cause problems if it leads to:
- Stomach pains
- Discomfort or difficulty in passing stools
There are a number of possible causes of constipation.
A common cause is a change in diet, particularly related to a reduction in intake of insoluble fibre.
Other causes may include:
- Lack of hydration
- Autonomic neuropathy
- Coeliac disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Colorectal cancer
- Certain medications
Medications that may result in constipation include antidepressants, water tablets and calcium or iron supplements.
It is common for women in the early stages of pregnancy to experience constipation
Treating constipation with diet
Constipation can be eased through dietary changes. The NHS notes that many people in the UK don’t eat enough fibre. The recommendation is to eat between 18g and 30g of fibre a day.
Insoluble fibre, as found in whole grains, vegetables and fruit, is particularly recommended for helping to move food through the gut.
The NHS recommends adding a source of wheat bran to you diet to help make stools easier to pass. This is not recommended, however, for people with coeliac disease or a gluten allergy or intolerance.
Keeping well hydrated will help to keep stools softer.
Treating constipation with medication
Taking laxatives may help in easing constipation. Different types of laxatives are available including bulk-forming laxatives, which help you to retain water in your stools, osmotic laxatives, which increase the amount fluid in the bowel and stimulant laxatives, which stimulate movement of the bowel.
Constipation and diabetes
There are a few reasons linked with diabetes that may increase the likelihood of constipation. People following a diet that restricts wheat products may experience constipation. This may be alleviated by increasing the amount of vegetables you eat and keeping hydrated.
If autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves in the bowel this can cause constipatio, diarrhoea or intermittent periods of each. Speak to you GP or diabetes specialist if neuropathy is causing significant difficulties.
Higher than normal blood glucose levels can decrease hydration which can therefore decrease the availability of water in the bowel if insufficient fluid is replaced.