Lazy colon is a condition of reduced bowel movements or persistent constipation. Affected people experience lower than normal intestinal motility and/or slow motility of other organs of digestive system, which is reason behind constipation. The condition is also known as sluggish bowel or sluggish colon.
Normal bowel movements can be described as 3 time per day or per week. Lazy colon patients experience bowel movements less than two to three times a week. Constipation may be the most common symptom, but lazy colon can also trigger a variety of other symptoms in different people.
Laxative overuse or abuse of other constipation treatment drugs is often the most common cause of chronic constipation associated with lazy colon. People of all ages can experience lazy colon; however women and elderly are more prone to it as compared to young adults or men.
Treatment involves medications, lifestyle changes, diet changes, and self-care.
Symptoms of lazy colon
The most common symptom of lazy colon is constipation. However, constipation may not necessarily always occur due to lazy colon. It can be caused by bowel motility issues, colon obstructions, and other gut diseases. Lazy colon linked constipation is the result of reduced large intestine bowel muscle movements.
Lazy colon may be accompanied by the below listed signs and symptoms:
- Poor appetite
- Less than 3 bowel movements in a week, which may persist for many weeks or months.
- Large bowel peristaltic movements may be infrequent. This leads to delayed waste matter removal and causes food to remain for long periods in the colon. Subsequently, all water gets absorbed by the intestines and dry and hard feces get formed. Patients may have to strain very hard to eliminate such hard, dry stools which can result in discomfort and pain in the abdomen.
- The contractions of bowels are week and straining to pass stool may be quite difficult. Reduced bowel contractions may reduce the frequency and desire to have a bowel movement and thus further aggravate lazy colon.
- Patients may experience sensation of incomplete bowel movements. It means that even though patients have long sessions in the toilet and may have removed all the waste matter, they will still feel as if some feces still remains in the colon and has not been eliminated.
The main cause of lazy colon in slower than normal contraction of the intestines. Other factors that contribute to occurrence of lazy colon are listed below:
- Frequent and persistent cases of dehydration
- Neurological defects like injury or damage to nerves which carry messages to colon can adversely affect the process of large bowel contractions. Subsequently, the time taken for stool to pass into the rectum is prolonged.
- Laxative overuse or abuse for many months/years can trigger reduced bowel movement and cause a condition of rebound constipation.
- Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia for many months or years can also result in lazy colon. It is often triggered by excessive use of laxative, over a long period of time, by patients to remove or purge consumed food.
- Intake of a low fiber diet is another common cause of lazy colon. Fiber is a nutrient that cannot be easily digested and thus adds volume to stool. If the stool volume is low, then expansion of the large intestine may not occur. Subsequently, the colon will also experience reduced contractions, thereby leading to decreased waste matter to move onward towards the rectum and increased fecal matter to stay in colon
- Hirschsprung’s disease is a disorder marked by non-existence of some nerve cells in the large bowel. It results in development of megacolon which then cannot efficiently move stool for removal from the body.
Treatment of lazy colon and diet
Treatment of lazy colon is aimed at alleviating symptoms and restoring normal bowel movements. Some common therapies and self-care measures are listed below:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids. it will add volume to stool, expand the bowels, trigger bowel contractions, and fasten the pace of stool movement
- Add more fiber to the daily diet, particularly insoluble fibers. Good sources of fiber, including insoluble fibers, are grains, fruits (bananas, oranges), veggies (cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes), beans, nuts, oat bran, whole-wheat bread, wheat bran whole-wheat couscous.
- Bowels movements are enhanced by physical activities. Older adults usually do not engage in physical activities and hence are prone to developing lazy colon. Walking, swimming, cycling, etc., are some exercises that can alleviate the symptoms.
- Ensure that good and regular bowel movement habits are maintained. These include bowel movements after breakfast or after waking up.
- Mild constipation and its symptoms can be eased with stool softners
- Severe instances of constipation may require prescription medications to stimulate contractions of the colon, thereby increasing activities of the bowel. Doctors may prescribe medications like misoprostol, prucalopride, erythromycin, tegaserod, and colchicine, etc. for lazy colon.
- The last treatment option for lazy colon is surgery to correct and restore motility of the intestines.