A bowel obstruction occurs when a part of the bowel (the small or large intestine) is blocked. This blockage may be partial or complete, making it difficult or impossible for waste to pass through. Almost anyone can experience an obstruction and for a variety of reasons. However, an obstruction is commonly associated with Crohn’s disease, also known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
Types of Bowel Obstruction
Obstructions manifest themselves in different ways, result from different factors, and present varying symptoms. Minor obstruction is normally associated with partial blockage and occurs in the small intestine. More severe cases of obstruction can cut off the bowel’s blood supply in a condition known as bowel strangulation or ischemia. In these instances, emergency medical treatment is required.
Pseudo-obstruction is difficult to explain medically and occurs when the bowel slows down or doesn’t function as it should. A nutritional or metabolic imbalance, such as potassium deficiency, causes pseudo-obstruction. Certain prescription medications that slow down the bowel’s activity can also cause obstruction as a side effect. Surgical complications, infections, inflammation, and kidney or thoracic disease are other reasons for the bowel to become obstructed.
Mechanical obstruction is more easily explained and occurs when stool is physically blocked so it cannot pass through the intestines. This type of bowel obstruction happens for a myriad of reasons, including:
- Ingestion of a foreign item
- Scar tissue or adhesions
- Abnormal tissue growth
- An intestinal twist or kink (volvulus)
- Narrowing of the intestines
- Crohn’s disease
- A benign or malignant (cancerous) tumor
Sometimes, an obstruction can occur if one part of the intestine folds into another part, similar to collapsing a telescope’s concentric sections. This type of blockage is called Intussusception. The most common causes of small-bowel obstruction are adhesions, hernias, and tumors. For obstruction of the colon or large-bowel, the causes are most likely volvulus, diverticulosis, and colorectal cancer.
Symptoms of An Obstructed Bowel
A bowel obstruction can incur a whole host of symptoms and complications, with constipation and diarrhea being two of the main problems. Most sufferers of an obstruction will experience either a total lack of stool (because it can’t pass through) or diarrhea, which occurs because sometimes only liquid stool can go around the blockage.
Other common symptoms associated with obstruction include intense abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, distention, and fullness. The pain is mild to moderate in minor bowel obstruction, and more severe if the bowel’s blood supply is cut off. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, bad breath, cramps, and rapid pulse and breathing.
Obstruction of the small bowel is more likely to produce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, abdominal distention and tenderness, inability to release gas, and rapid pulse and breathing due to cramps. Obstruction of the large bowel could produce symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, leaky diarrhea, and rectal bleeding or bloody stool if a colon tumor is the cause.
As mentioned, a bowel obstruction is commonly a complication of Crohn’s disease. However, an obstruction can also develop into other complications if left untreated. Whether an obstruction is minor or serious, it can lead to significant complications including death of part of the bowel, which can cause severe infection and even gangrene necessitating removal of the affected area. An obstruction can also cause the intestines to tear, which will require emergency medical surgery.
An obstruction of the bowel is diagnosed with a physical examination as well as various diagnostic tests, including those for bowel sounds, X-ray, barium enema, CT scanning, or an ultrasound. A bowel obstruction can be treated with certain medications or by decompressing the intestine via a nasogastric tube inserted into the stomach to relieve distention and blockage. Surgery may be necessary if this method doesn’t work, if the obstruction is complete and stemming from the large intestine, or in cases of bowel strangulation.
Sometimes, however, a minor obstruction (particularly if it is a partial blockage or located in the small intestine) is monitored to see if it will go away on its own. Sometimes, medication is prescribed. Other times, patients choose to use a colon cleanser to help clean out their digestive system, regulate their digestive tract, and relieve symptoms of constipation. Some colon cleansers are very effective in dealing with minor obstruction.
Oxy-Powder® is a natural colon-cleansing compound that is effective, safe, and is highly recommended for helping to improve your overall colon health and relieve constipation, one of the most bothersome symptoms of bowel obstruction.
Without the inconvenient and potentially harmful side effects of laxatives and synthetic colon cleansers, Oxy-Powder® gently cleanses the colon by helping to flush out accumulated, toxin-laden waste, thus relieving constipation and lower intestinal discomfort, which in turn helps to relieve the symptoms of bowel obstruction.