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Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Causes: Top 8 Constipation Causes

1. Lack of Movement

Constipation is a condition that causes a lack of movement of the bowel. One of the most common causes of this condition is a lack of regular exercise. The body needs muscle tone in order to have regular, comfortable bowel movements, and the muscles in the abdomen as well as in the diaphragm are important to this bodily function.[1] If you don’t exercise regularly, these muscles might weaken. However, in most cases, lack of exercise is more likely to be the cause of constipation in older individuals.[1]

2. Diet

If your diet is to blame for your constipation, it’s probably because you’re not eating enough fiber. Adding a fiber cereal or another high-fiber option into your daily diet could be helpful, but this is often most effective for mild constipation in otherwise healthy individuals. Not drinking enough liquids, especially water, can also be a cause of constipation.

3. Life Changes

If you are moving into a new home, changing jobs, or doing something else that disrupts your normal, daily routine, it’s possible this could be leading to your problems with constipation. The issue is common when your diet, bathroom, or sleeping routines change.

4. Pregnancy

Pregnancy often causes constipation.[1] This is because the body’s hormones are changing drastically, and the body may need time to catch up to these changes, which can cause temporary turmoil. Longer bouts of constipation during pregnancy can be a result of the enlargement of the uterus pushing against the intestine and causing bowel movements to become slower or blocked.[1]

5. Not Going When You Need to Go

Simply not going to the bathroom when you need to go can actually cause your body to become constipated.[2] If you ignore your body’s urge to have a bowel movement, it can make it harder for you to have one later on. If this is a common problem for you, it might be time to talk to your doctor.

6. Overuse of Constipation Treatments

Laxatives are medications that can minimize issues with constipation and provide you with temporary relief. However, if you overuse them, or use another option like an enema, your body can forget to do its part of the job and simply rely on these products to create movement.[2] This is why overusing treatments for constipation can actually cause it to become more intense.

7. Medications

Certain other medications can also cause constipation. The entire class of drugs known as opioids is so problematic in this regard that there is a whole host of medications dedicated to relieving constipation caused by their use. Other medications that can sometimes cause constipation include antihistamines, diuretics, Parkinson’s disease medications, antacids, iron supplements, and anti-depressants.[2]

8. Stress

Any cause of stress in your life could potentially lead to constipation.[3] Though the previously mentioned examples of moving or changing jobs can throw off your daily rhythm, they can also simply stress you out, leading to reduced bowel movements. Anything from a big test to a breakup to worrying about your finances could cause constipation for a time.

Conditions: Possible Health Conditions Related to Constipation

1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Also known as IBS, this condition can cause either constipation or diarrhea—or both—as well as pain in the stomach and the feeling of being bloated. Some medications can be prescribed to treat IBS, but doctors typically suggest lifestyle changes and a proper diet to deal with the problem.

2. Blockages

Certain conditions can cause blockages in the rectum or the colon that make bowel movements become slower or even stop entirely. There are many issues that can cause this, such as anal fissures or rectocele (a bulge in the rectum that happens through the back of the vagina).[4] Unfortunately, colon cancer and rectal cancer can also cause blockages that create constipation, but because there are so many causes of this symptom, it’s best not to immediately jump to this conclusion.

3. Hormonal Conditions

Certain conditions, like pregnancy, can change the hormones in your body, which can lead to constipation. Other causes include hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and diabetes.[4] You will probably have other symptoms, as well, if one of these issues is causing your constipation.

4. Neurological Conditions

Certain neurological conditions can actually contract the muscles in the rectum and the colon, causing constipation. You’re likely to have more symptoms than just constipation if you have one of these conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), autonomic neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and injuries to the spinal cord.[4]

5. Eating Disorders

Constipation can sometimes occur with certain eating disorders like anorexia. The intestine muscles weaken with this type of condition, and the metabolism in the body shuts down, leading to a reduction in bowel movements. Both of these issues are caused by starvation.[5] Someone who has an eating disorder needs medical intervention immediately, especially if they have reached this stage of symptoms.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Constipation

  • How many bowel movements have you had in the last week?
  • What did your stool look like (color, consistency, size, etc.)?
  • Do you have a hard time passing stool when you do have a bowel movement?
  • Do you have any other symptoms you think may or may not be related to your constipation?
  • Have you experienced any recent lifestyle changes or stressors?
  • Are you taking any medications?

Constipation May Also be Known as:

  • Infrequent bowel movements
  • Difficulty or trouble passing stool
  • Irregularity of bowels



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