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Eliminating wastes from the body is a natural process. Yet, there are some factors that influence how easy it is to control bowel elimination. Learn how things like diet, fluid intake, activity level, and associated conditions influence elimination.

Bowel Elimination

When it comes to going to the bathroom, sometimes it’s easy to go and sometimes it’s not.

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Since bowel elimination, which is the way your body rids itself of solid wastes, is a process involving the digestive tract, it’s easy to see that things like the types of foods you eat and the amount of water you drink could influence your ability – or inability – to go to the bathroom. But, there are many other factors that influence bowel elimination. In this lesson, we will look at the obvious, and not so obvious, factors.

Diet ; Exercise

Let’s start with one of the more obvious factors that influences your ability to go to the bathroom: your diet. Some foods contain fiber that promotes regularity and helps move food through the digestive tract. High fiber foods – like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains – add bulk to your digestive wastes, making it easier for you to move your bowels. In contrast, some low-fiber foods lead to constipation, which is a difficulty with bowel elimination.

Dairy foods, such as cheese and milk, are common foods that can contribute to constipation.Along with diet, the amount you drink and the amount you move can also influence bowel elimination. The basic rule is that more fluid intake and physical activity is better when it comes to ease of bowel elimination.Physical activity and lots of water help speed movement of wastes through the digestive tract. These factors are particularly important for people who aren’t feeling well. If a person’s illness prevents them from moving around or causes dehydration, the movement of food through your digestive tract slows down, which leads to harder stool and constipation.

Psychological Factors & Habits

Sometimes it’s not what’s going on inside your body, but what’s going on inside your head, that influences bowel elimination.

For example, psychological factors, such as a person suffering from depression, which is a mental condition characterized by prolonged periods of sadness, may experience a slowing of peristalsis, which is the muscular movements within the digestive tract that push food along.Habits can also develop due to thoughts or beliefs we have, and these habits can influence bowel elimination. For example, a person might not like to go to the bathroom while at work or school because they think it’s not private enough or it’s unclean. If this habit of avoiding the urge to go is prolonged, it can lead to constipation and make it hard to go when the time is right.

Age ; Health Conditions

Sometimes seemingly unrelated factors influence bowel elimination as we move through different stages in life.

In fact, we see that age by itself can be a factor. For example, young children lack the physical maturity needed to exert control over the urge to move their bowels, whereas, the elderly may lack the muscle tone needed to control elimination.In between infancy and our senior years, there are a number of conditions that can interfere with normal bowel movement. For women who are in the later stages of pregnancy, bowel activity can be reduced due to direct pressure of the fetus pushing on the intestines.Pain is something that can strike anyone at any age. If the act of having a bowel movement causes pain, either indirectly due to the pressure of bearing down or directly due to things like hemorrhoids, the person might delay elimination or find elimination difficult.

Medications ; Surgical Treatment

It’s also possible to have problems develop due to a medical treatment. We see that different medications can have a laxative effect, which causes wastes to move quickly through the digestive system, while other medications can lead to constipation. Surgery and anesthesia are two procedures related to health care treatments that can influence bowel movement. Surgery and the anesthetic agents used during surgery can cause peristalsis within the digestive tract to slow or stop.Even if the patient makes it through the surgery without bowel elimination problems, they might still face an issue during their recovery.

For example, some patients find it hard to have a bowel movement in a bed pan. This may have a psychological factor associated with it, but the inability to go can be due to the awkward position. Trying to have a bowel movement while lying down can be challenging.

To remedy this problem, the nursing staff can raise the head of the bed to simulate the seated position.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Bowel elimination is the way your body rids itself of solid wastes.

It can be influenced by lifestyle factors including diet, fluid intake, and physical activity. It can also be influenced by psychological factors and habits as well as age, pregnancy, and the presence of pain. Sometimes bowel elimination is influenced by medical treatment or recovery, such as medications, surgery, anesthesia, and position.

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