Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It occurs when you have difficulty emptying your bowels or don’t pass stool regularly. While constipation is not a serious condition on its own, prolonged and chronic constipation may be associated with severe health conditions like colorectal cancer.
According to the National Library of Medicine, a recent study found that patients with constipation had an increased risk of a GI (gastrointestinal) cancer diagnosis.
So, is lifelong constipation associated with colorectal cancer?
In this article, we answer the question “is lifelong constipation associated with colorectal cancer?” and examine the relationship between constipation and colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms at first, which makes it harder to detect. However, some common colorectal cancer symptoms to watch out for are:
- A change in bowel movements, like diarrhea or constipation
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Persistent abdominal discomforts such as gas, pain, or cramps
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unintended weight loss
- A feeling that your bowel does not empty all the way
Since colorectal cancer doesn’t cause symptoms right away, you could have it and not even know it. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and men in the United States. This is why regular screening is essential to detect cancer early and treat it accordingly.
Does Lifelong Constipation Associated With Colorectal Cancer?
It’s unclear whether constipation is associated with cancer, but studies show it should be a cause of concern for constipation patients. American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 2012 study links chronic constipation with colorectal cancer. The study found that benign neoplasms and colorectal cancer are more prevalent in patients with chronic constipation.
According to the study, the risk of colorectal cancer was 1.78 times higher in patients suffering from constipation. It’s essential to note that the study only demonstrates an association, not causation, between constipation and colorectal cancer. This means prolonged or chronic constipation does not cause colon and rectal cancer. The leading cause of cancer is genetics. Therefore, if your family has a history of cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing it.
In contrast, a recent study conducted by AGC has conflicting claims, stating that constipation has no association with colorectal cancer. In this study, researchers looked at 41,299 colorectal cancer cases and found no association between the two. Further research is warranted to determine whether patients who have their constipation well controlled are at a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
These conflicting studies make it hard to determine whether there’s a link between constipation and colon and rectal cancer. But, patients with chronic constipation still need to take the necessary measures to treat their constipation. If left untreated, constipation can result in other health conditions like hemorrhoids and cause lifelong pain and discomfort.
What Causes of Lifelong Constipation Associated With Colorectal Cancer?
Lifelong or chronic constipation has multiple causes, including:
Lifestyle And Diet: Lack of physical activity and poor diet are the most common causes of chronic constipation. Some of the diet and lifestyle factors that cause constipation are:
- Not eating enough fiber
- Eating highly processed foods
- Eating foods high in sugar and fat
- A diet heavy in dairy and meat products
- Lack of exercise
- Ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom
- Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
- Not drinking enough fluids
Anxiety or Depression: People who suffer from anxiety and depression may experience constipation. This is because these conditions take a toll on your physical health, including your digestive system, making it harder to pass stool.
Underlying Conditions: Some underlying conditions, such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome, could cause lifelong constipation. It’s a good idea to have additional diagnostic tests to check whether your chronic constipation signals underlying health conditions.
Medications: Some medications cause constipation, including blood pressure medication, antacids, and contraceptives. The longer you take such drugs, the more chronic your constipation becomes.
Preventing Lifelong Constipation
Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent and treat lifelong constipation. For instance, you can exercise regularly, increase your water intake, and get at least 8 hours of sleep. All these go a long way in improving digestion and gut health and preventing constipation altogether.
If you already suffer from constipation, you may want to change your diet. Start by including more fiber in your food. Experts recommend eating at least 30 grams of fiber daily.
Second, focus on eating healthy and whole foods and steer clear of processed food products. This means eating a balanced diet comprising vegetables, fruits, protein, and carbohydrates.
Try to avoid getting take-out as much as possible or eating foods high in sugar and fats, such as baked goods and fatty meat. These foods are harder to digest and will only make your constipation worse.
You should also monitor your stool regularly for any changes. For example, if your stool becomes hard and lumpy, you’re not eating enough fiber and need to include more in your diet. If you notice any weird changes to your stool, such as blood, see a doctor immediately.
Another way to prevent constipation is to train your body to pass stool daily. Never hold in the urge to go, and don’t depend on laxatives. While laxatives help you pass stool, long-term use can cause health complications and dehydration and reduce your body’s electrolytes.
Foods That Protect Against Constipation
Some of the foods to include in your diet to protect against constipation are:
- Brown rice and grains: These are full of fiber, which prevents bowel movement issues while nourishing the body
- Green-leafed vegetables like spinach: These aid digestion and nourish the body
- Fruits that are not overly sweet, such as papayas: Are full of minerals and vitamins that aid in digestion
It’s advisable to get screening for colorectal cancer, especially if you’re 45+ and suffer from chronic constipation. Both colorectal cancer and constipation can be prevented and treated when diagnosed early.
Contact Allied Digestive Health today to schedule an appointment for your colorectal cancer screening and diagnosis.