Depending on one's definition of constipation, the condition can affect between 12 and 19 percent of the population and cost an estimated $1.6 billion in emergency room visits in 2011. A 2002 study also found that Americans spend about $800 million a year on laxatives.
But beyond the numbers, constipation is a very real problem that almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives -- whether it’s brought on by travel stress, unfamiliar surroundings, medication, age or a changing lifestyle and diet. Dr. William Chey, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and co-editor-in-chief of the journal that published the study, believes that the U.S. is going to see these numbers rise even more as the population ages. In part this is because the condition might be exacerbated by aging colons, as well as lifestyle changes linked to being elderly: medications, less physical activity and more prepared or processed foods.
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