Western lifestyle is making more people constipated than ever. For many the condition is just an aggravation, but to others it’s daily agony that in some cases can be dangerous and deadly.

A recent survey conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association shows that 16 percent of Americans – including one third of people over 60 – experience chronic constipation.

Constipation is defined as an individual passing fewer than three stools a week and straining to have bowel movement to a point as though there is a noticeable blockage.

It can be considered chronic when individuals experience symptoms multiple times in a three-month period. The Western diet is loosely defined as one full of fatty and sugary foods, such as burgers, fries and soda.

Health effects have been linked to things such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer and dementia. A study conducted at Harvard Medical School, United States (U.S.), shows that the number of people being admitted to the hospital primarily for constipation has more than doubled since 1997.

In the US there are more than 700,000 emergency department trips every year due to the condition. Dr. David Dunkin, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai in New York, told Daily Mail UK Online that when chronic, constipation can have major complications including swollen veins and torn skin.

Swollen veins can often result in haemorrhoids in older adults that can cause discomfort and bleeding. And when untreated he explained it can also cause an accumulation of hardened stool in the intestines, or a rectal prolapse, meaning that a bit of the intestine protrudes from the anus.

When that happens it often requires surgery. Dunkin also said that occasionally the accumulation of hardened stool can cause encopresis, which means that impaction is so severe it causes an overflow of leaking fecal matter. This happens most often in constipated children.

“And occasionally children are so constipated that they aren’t eating enough food and so they aren’t growing as well. It’s not that common but it does happen and can be serious,” he said.

The Western diet, which is full of processed high-fat foods, has contributed significantly to the epidemic. The average person eats significantly less fibre and drinks much less fluid than they should, and both things are essential for bowel movement.

However, a new review and meta-analysis suggests that following a vegetarian diet decreases the levels of total cholesterol in the system. A new review of almost 50 studies related to nutrition suggests that plant-based diets are associated with lower total cholesterol levels. The authors believe that these findings will have an impact on preventive care for cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers from three institutions have recently put together a comprehensive review and meta-analysis looking at the effects that consuming a plant-based diet has on the level of plasma lipids, or the lipids, cholesterol, and triglycerides, found in blood.

High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is also known as “bad cholesterol,” have been associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD).

Total cholesterol levels and the level of triglycerides have also been linked with an increased risk of CHD, although high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is also known as “good cholesterol,” is thought to play a protective role in the system.

The team suggests that hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol, can often go undiagnosed and untreated, which is one of the reasons why it can become a dangerous health factor. However, cholesterol levels can be kept under control through an appropriate diet and physical exercise.

The review was conducted by Dr. Yoko Yokoyama, from Keio University in Fujisawa, Japan, in collaboration with Susan Levin, who is director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Neal Barnard, from the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, also in Washington, D.C.

The scientists’ findings were published yesterday in the journal Nutrition Reviews. Also, new research suggests that men and women who are overweight in their ‘bachelor years’ will likely have children with slow metabolism.

At least a fifth of Western parents-to-be now start pregnancy overweight or obese – something we know is dangerous for fetuses. Most programmes to combat this issue target pregnant women, urging them not to over-eat during gestation.

However, this new study by the University of Bristol warns that lifestyle before conceiving – among both men and women – could be more critical than a woman’s pregnancy diet.

Experts warn the study underlines how rising obesity rates among teenagers could have devastating implications for the digestive health of future generations. The report led by Dr. Debbie Lawlor used information on 5,337 mother-father-child groups from three European data sets spanning 31 years. Each study included pre-maternal weight and paternal weight.

It also gave a comprehensive account of each child’s metabolic traits. A person’s metabolism is geared by a number of factors. These include blood levels of cholesterol, lipids, glucose, insulin, and blood pressure.

The study documented these factors at ages 16, 17 or 31. They found that a woman’s eating habits during pregnancy had little impact on the child’s metabolism. Contrary to previous studies, they found little evidence to connect a mother’s pregnancy eating habits to the child’s metabolism later in life. The only clear correlation was between the parents’ pre-pregnancy body-mass index.

“Our findings are more supportive of shared familial factors than an intrauterine developmental over-nutrition mechanism for associations of maternal BMI with offspring metabolic traits,” the authors wrote.

“Interventions to reduce BMI in all family members may be more beneficial for cardio-metabolic health than focusing on reducing maternal pre-conception or pregnancy BMI.”

It builds on Professor Lawlor’s previous research, looking at how a woman’s weight during pregnancy. The study, published last year found that, independent of genetics, sugar intake and low blood pressure increase the risk of a baby being born large.


Source: The Guardian Newspaper