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Signs and symptoms of constipation
and digestive problems

Constipation and digestive upset

Here are the signs and symptoms of constipation, gas, bloating and upset stomach


What is constipation ?

A useful definition of constipation is the infrequent passage of stool (less than three stools a week) that is difficult and painful to pass.
Symptoms include feeling bloated, straining, abdominal pain, and gas.

What are common causes of constipation ?

Some common causes of constipation include: poor dietary habits, such as low intake of dietary fibre or an inadequate fluid intake, lack of exercise and certain medications.


What is gas?

Gas gets into the digestive tract two ways: by swallowing air and by the formation of gas by the bacterial that normally live in the gut. The swallowed air is released by burping. The gas produced in the gut is released as flatulence (also called passing gas). Flatus is the medical name for the gas. The gases produced by the bacteria are hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.

Gas forms in your large intestine (colon) when bacteria ferment carbohydrates such as fibre, some starches and some sugars. Certain foods can cause excessive gas formation such as cabbage, broccoli, baked beans, onions, bran and other high fiber containing fruits, grains and vegetables. But while high-fibre foods might cause too much gas to be produced, fibre is very important to keep your gut functioning normally.

What is upset stomach?

Stomach upset goes by various other names such as indigestion or dyspepsia.

You can get it when you eat too much or too fast, when you eat spicy, fatty or greasy food, or if you eat when stressed. Smoking, alcohol and caffeine can make stomach upset worse.

The following are some symptom of stomach upset: 

  • Belching and gas  
  • Acidic taste  
  • Stomach noises or rumbling

How can I tell if my child is constipated?

Some guidelines to identifying constipation in infants and children include no bowel movements for 2 or 3 more days than usual, less than 3 bowel movements a week, hard or painful bowel movements, large stools that may clog the toilet, and drops of blood on the outside of the stool.

Is constipation different in children? The symptoms of constipation are the same in children as they are in adults, but children can develop constipation differently. Children may be reluctant to use a strange bathroom, worried about having a “bad” experience or interrupt playtime with friends thereby disrupting their natural clock.

What can cause constipation in children?

Constipation can be related to many factors:  

  • Eating too many foods that are high in fat and low in fibre, like fast foods  
  • Not drinking enough water and other fluids  
  • Lack of exercise  
  • Not wanting to use public bathrooms  
  • Feeling stressed because of school, friends, or family
  • Starting a new school year so children can’t go to the bathroom whenever they feel the need and they have to change their bathroom routine

The rate of constipation goes up as people age.

Of people 65 years of age or more, 26% of women and 16% of men are constipated.

But constipation is not caused by being old. Rather it is caused by other age-related problems such as decreased mobility, age-related medical conditions, increased use of medications that cause constipation as a side effect, and changes in diet.

There are, however, certain lifestyle changes that can help relieve constipation. These include eating more fibre, staying well hydrated, and being as physically active as possible.

  • Eat more fresh fruit, dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs, cooked or raw vegetables, and whole-grain cereals and breads
  • Drink lots of water and juices
  • Do things that keep you moving and active like going for walks or taking care of your yard