Constipation isn't the sexiest topic, but despite that, it's something more of us suffer with than you might think. According to Guts UK, one in seven of us experience constipation, which is medically defined as "difficulty opening your bowels". Or, in plain english: trouble going for a poo.
But new research carried out by King's College London suggests a new definition may be necessary, due to differences in how doctors and the public perceive the condition.
The BBC reports that less than a third of people surveyed would identify 'infrequent bowel movements' as a sign of constipation, which has led researchers to compile a new list of symptoms that might better articulate what constipation actually is, so people are able to deal with it more effectively.
The new set of symptoms are grouped into six categories, as follows:
- Abdominal discomfort, pain and bloating
- Rectal discomfort – bleeding from pushing too hard, pain or burning in the anal area
- Infrequent bowel movements and hard stools – normal can be anywhere between three times a day and three times a week depending on the individual
- Sensory dysfunction – not having the urge to go, or feeling sense of still needing to go
- Flatulence and bloating – noisy or smelly wind
- Faecal incontinence - uncontrolled leakage or rectal bleeding
Guts UK says there can be a range of causes of constipation, including diet, medication, emotions, eating disorders, irregular meal times, reduced liquid intake and reduced physical activity. Occasionally, it can be an indicator of another underlying condition, such as bowel cancer or coeliac disease.
Speaking to the BBC, the study author Dr Eirini Dimidi urged people to "consult your doctor if you experience gut symptoms".