What is Constipation?
Constipation is irregular bowel habits characterized by hard stools and difficulty in evacuating the bowels. Constipation could be acute or chronic. It is one of the most neglected symptoms. Constipation is essentially a symptom, not a disease.
A person having constipation will complain of irregular bowel habits with dry, hard stools, and occasionally abdominal pain and be bloating. Patients often give a history of inadequate water and fiber intake, irregular meal timings, and inadequate sleep and exercise.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is an infection and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract caused by consuming contaminated food or water. A large number of parasites, bacteria, and viruses are responsible for causing food poisoning. When contaminated food or water is consumed, microbes release toxins when they enter the gut.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Watery loose motions.
- Colicky abdominal pain before or during stools.
- Tenderness and pain around the umbilical region.
- Fever may or may not be present.
- Loss of appetite
- Generalized weakness
Mostly the disease is a self-limiting one, but in a few cases, complaints are severe resulting in dehydration and the patients may require hospitalization. Treating food poisoning can be tricky, because, quite often, over-use of anti-diarrheal drugs can significantly reduce or completely stop bowel motility.
Is Constipation A Sign of Food Poisoning?
Constipation occurs after an episode of food poisoning. Therefore, an acute episode of constipation is frequently related to food poisoning.
Can you Get Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) from Food Poisoning?
IBS is a long-term complication of food poisoning. It is characterized by alternate bouts of diarrhea followed by constipation. This is also called as post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS). Post-infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome is associated with abdominal pain, discomfort, and diarrhea. This can be prevented by maintaining an adequate diet and regime.
The Possibility of Developing IBS Depends upon the Following Factors;
- Infectivity of the toxin
- Severity and duration of initial illness.
- Age and susceptibility of affected individuals.
According to research conducted, it was found the gastroenteritis accounted for a maximum number of IBS cases.
Also, a higher risk of developing PI-IBS was observed in patients having pre-existing psychological disorders and in those patients who showed symptoms of food poisoning for more than 3 weeks. Some specific organisms like Shigella, Campylobacter, and Salmonella, increased the duration of the infective episode, which increased the risk of developing IBS threefold.
It was also observed that patients who exhibited vomiting during the initial infection were at a lesser risk of developing Post-Infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome (PI-IBS). However, patients who had vomiting from viral gastroenteritis had a high risk of developing IBS.
Can Food Poisoning Cause Constipation?
Constipation frequently occurs after an episode of food poisoning. Just like loose motions, constipation too is an abnormal bowel movement. Some reasons why constipation occurs after food poisoning are;
- Overuse of anti-diarrheal drugs.
- Poor oral intake during and after diarrhea.
- When food poisoning occurs, the healthy bacteria present inside our gut get disrupted. In the absence of these healthy bacteria, the normal functioning of the bowel does not happen.
- Constant anxiety and stress is a psychological factor behind constipation.
- Taking excessive painkillers during food poisoning.
- The slowness of bowel movements occurs after a bout of hyper-motility.
How Can You Prevent Constipation After An Episode of Food Poisoning?
- Minimum fluid consumption of at least 1-1.5 liter in a day.
- Limit intake of sweets and processed food.
- Intake of food rich in fiber such as fresh fruits, beans, and green leafy vegetables.
- Regular exercise in order to prevent constipation.
Usually, constipation after diarrhea resolves by itself as and when appetite improves. But if it persists longer than 3 weeks, then it should be considered separately. Food poisoning can occur accidentally yet, certain precautions have to be taken to prevent it.
Prevention of Food Poisoning
- Washing hands before and after meals.
- Keeping kitchen premises clean and washing utensils before preparing food.
- Carrying a sanitizer and using it frequently because contamination can occur even through objects that we touch; and not just food and water.
- While traveling, carrying your own water bottle is the best precaution.
- It is essential to have natural pro-biotic foods such as curds, fresh seasonal fruits, and apple cider vinegar. These help in maintaining the normal gut flora, as these are responsible for our immunity.
- Do not consume food and drinks that have crossed the expiry date.
- Food should be washed and cooked properly before eating, especially eggs and poultry food.
- Avoid eating fried and uncovered food.
- Avoid drinking untreated water and unpasteurized milk.
Home Remedies for Food Poisoning
- Drink a small amount of water frequently to prevent dehydration.
- In the case of hunger, soft, bland, and home-cooked food should be taken. Avoid spicy or oily food and all kinds of bakery products.
- Avoid milk and milk products during illness.
- Having a small cup of black tea or black coffee helps in reducing loose motions.
- Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is a must-have during gastroenteritis, especially in children. This restores the loss and imbalance of electrolytes.
- Coconut water is a safe and natural oral rehydration fluid.
- Adequate bed rest is necessary.
In spite of all these home remedies for food poisoning, physician consultation should be sought if there is a fever or if complaints persist or increase. This is because an excess of vomiting or loose motions cause dehydration. In cases of severe dehydration, kidney function also gets impaired.
Stoppage of bowel motility during acute infection of the gut does not allow microbes and their toxins to leave the colon. Due to this, symptoms of food poisoning can either relapse or occur alternately with constipation in response to laxatives. For this reason, it is always advised to avoid self-medication.
Alternative systems of medicine such as Ayurveda and Homoeopathy also have a good scope in the management of cases of food poisoning,
Dr. Himanshi is a Homoeopathic consultant and currently working as a lecturer in Post-graduate faculty of Homeopathy, Parul University, Vadodara. Completed BHMS and MD in Homeopathy in January 2018 and also has a clinical experience of about 6 years. Personal interests include reading, spending time with family and traveling.