What Causes Constipation?


Constipation refers to difficulty in passing stool or having fewer bowel movements than usual, typically fewer than three times a week. It’s a common issue that can result from inadequate fiber, fluids, and exercise, but can also stem from medical conditions or certain medications.


Common symptoms of constipation include:

  • Fewer than three bowel movements per week.
  • Hard, dry, or lumpy stools.
  • Straining or pain during bowel movements.
  • Feeling that not all stool has passed.
  • A sensation of blockage in the rectum.
  • Needing to use fingers to help pass stool.

Chronic constipation is diagnosed when these symptoms persist for three months or longer.

When to See a Doctor

Consult a healthcare professional if you experience:

  • Symptoms lasting more than three weeks.
  • Difficulty in daily activities due to symptoms.
  • Bleeding from the rectum or blood in stools.
  • Black stools.
  • Unusual changes in stool shape or color.
  • Persistent stomach pain.
  • Unintentional weight loss.


Bowel movement patterns vary widely, typically ranging from three times a day to three times a week. Constipation occurs when stool moves too slowly through the colon, causing excess water absorption and hard, dry stools.

Lifestyle Factors

Constipation may result from:

  • Inadequate fluid intake.
  • Low dietary fiber.
  • Lack of regular exercise.
  • Ignoring the urge to pass stool.


Some medications can cause constipation, particularly opioids and those used to treat:

  • Pain.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Seizures.
  • Depression.
  • Nervous system disorders.
  • Allergies.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Problems

The pelvic floor muscles support organs at the bottom of the torso and help pass stool. Issues with these muscles can lead to chronic constipation.


Colon or rectal tissue damage or tumors can block stool passage.

Other Factors

Chronic constipation can also be linked to:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Diabetes.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Nerve dysfunction or damage.
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Pregnancy.

In some cases, the exact cause of chronic constipation remains unidentified.

Risk Factors

Increased risk factors for chronic constipation include:

  • Being an older adult.
  • Being female.
  • Limited physical activity.
  • Mental health conditions such as depression or eating disorders.


Chronic constipation can lead to:

  • Hemorrhoids (swollen tissues around the anus).
  • Anal fissures (torn tissues of the anus).
  • Fecal impaction (hard stools backed up in the colon).
  • Rectal prolapse (rectal tissues protruding from the anus).


To prevent constipation:

  • Eat high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.
  • Limit low-fiber foods such as processed foods, dairy, and meats.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly.
  • Don’t ignore the urge to pass stool.
  • Establish a regular bowel movement schedule, especially after meals.

By following these guidelines, you can reduce the risk of constipation and maintain better digestive health

A Quick Review

Constipation, characterized by infrequent or difficult bowel movements, affects many individuals. Symptoms like hard, dry stools and abdominal discomfort can disrupt daily life. Causes range from low fiber intake to underlying health conditions. Prevention and treatment involve dietary changes, increased fluid intake, and regular exercise. In chronic cases, medical intervention may be necessary

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