Constipation

Audrey J. Woolrich, MD, PC -  - Gastroenterologist

Audrey J. Woolrich, MD, PC

Gastroenterologist located in New York City on Manhattan's Upper East Side

Normal bowel movements range from three per day to three times per week, but a persistent change in your habit should cause concern. Constipation, hard bowel movements, or difficulty passing your stool is a frequent topic of conversation at Dr. Audrey Woolrich's Manhattan office. As a compassionate expert gastroenterologist with over 30 years of experience, Dr. Woolrich works with you to identify the cause of your occasional or chronic constipation and develops a personalized plan to prevent its recurrence. For relief from constipation, call Dr. Woolrich's office or schedule an appointment online today.

Constipation Q & A

What is constipation?

When you have constipation, you may experience problems passing stools or have infrequent bowel movements. While it is normal to experience constipation from time to time, experiencing these symptoms for a few weeks or longer can indicate chronic constipation.

Symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Passing three or fewer bowel movements per week
  • Having lumpy or hard stools
  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Being unable to empty your bowels completely
  • Feeling like you have a blockage in your rectum
  • Using suppositories, enemas, laxatives or even manual manipulation to help pass your stool

Constipation can disrupt your daily life. It can also lead to anal fissures, hemorrhoids, fecal impaction or even rectal prolapse.

What causes constipation?

Many things can cause constipation, but occasional constipation is usually related to diet and dehydration.

Things as simple as taking a plane ride for a few hours, participating in a hot yoga class or just not paying attention to your water intake, can cause constipation.

The most common causes of chronic constipation include:

Your diet

Your diet plays a critical role in making you prone to constipation. A constipation-prone diet includes:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Consuming dehydrating drinks such as caffeinated coffee and tea and alcohol
  • Having too many binding foods like rice (brown or white), bananas, corn and quinoa
  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables daily
  • Not having sufficient oil in your diet

Your medication regimen

  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Narcotic pain medication
  • Antidepressants

Medical conditions

  • Hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland
  • Crohn’s disease, ischemic colitis, or chronic diverticulitis, narrowing of your colon from an underlying tumor or inflammatory process
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, otherwise known as IBS
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction, weakened pelvic muscles that can result from giving birth or a spine condition

How is constipation diagnosed and treated?

During your consultation with Dr. Woolrich, she will ask you to describe your bowel movements, their frequency, consistency and if there is any bleeding. She will review your diet and medications as well as  your social history, including exercise, alcohol intake etc.  She will perform an abdominal exam and a digital rectal exam. If constipation persists after following her recommendations then blood tests or radiology testing might be considered. If indicated, a colonoscopy or a referral for pelvic floor therapy might be next.

Treatment depends on the cause of your constipation. Dietary and lifestyle changes may be all that is needed. Some patients might need the help of over-the-counter stool softeners and mild laxatives. Sometimes prescription medications are needed.

Some laxatives, including "natural" cleansing teas, can be habit-forming and lead to more severe problems. High colonics are also not recommended.

If you are having an issue with constipation please call  Dr. Audrey Woolrich for a consultation or schedule an appointment online today.