In Constipation Constipation Treaments Health Symptoms

Constipation - What Are The Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments?

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Constipation, and any other digestive issues to do with visiting the restroom, are often swept under the carpet, yes, they may not be the most glamorous issues to discuss, but they affect a huge proportion of society, with constipation alone estimated to affect around 2.5 million Americans each year, making it one of the most common digestive problems. But what exactly is constipation? How do you know if you are suffering from it? And what can you do to make it go away? We’ll cover those three key questions in this article.

What is constipation and what are the symptoms?

Constipation is the term used to describe a difficulty with producing a bowel movement and is  defined as having less than three bowel movements a week or suffering from hard, dry and often painful bowel movements. It can affect people of any age, from babies through to older adults and can usually be treated at home with simple lifestyle and dietary changes.

What are the causes of constipation?

Before we go on to discuss the causes of constipation it’s important to understand a little about what goes on in our bodies to produce a bowel movement. When food is ingested it passes down into the stomach to be more thoroughly digested, from here it then passes into the small intestine where most of its nutrients are extracted and it continues being digested. Having passed through the small intestine the food then enters the large intestine, also referred to as the colon or bowel. It is the colon that is responsible for managing the bodies waste preparing what is left of the food (not termed a stool) to be expelled in a bowel movement. One of the key jobs of the colon is to remove excess water from the stool turning it from a liquid into a solid and ensuring that the body retains as much hydration as possible.

Now that we know that the large intestine, or colon, is the part of the body responsible for producing a stool we can begin to understand why certain things can disrupt this process causing constipation.

 Some of the most common causes of constipation include:

  • Eating a low fibre diet 
  • Not consuming enough water 
  • Not exercising enough 
  • Not going to the toilet when you need to 
  • Changes in routine
  • Underlying health issues



Not consuming enough water

Hand in hand with fibre comes drinking enough water because fibre acts like a sponge. Fibre can only do its job if it has adequate water to absorb. Without adequate water, the stool will still become dry and hard and be difficult to pass. Try to consume less alcohol and drink more water to help your gut.

Not exercising enough

Movement and exercise aren’t just important for a healthy heart but for a healthy bowel too, reducing the amount of time a stool spends in the large intestine, limiting the amount of water that can be removed from it. Exercise also stimulates the natural contractions of the lower intestine that pass the stool through the bowel helping to speed up bowel movements.


Not going to the toilet when you need to

Holding a stool in unnecessarily when you need to go to the toilet can lead to more liquid being absorbed than was intended, resulting in a compacted and hard stool that will be difficult to pass.

Changes in routine 

Our bodies like routine and any big changes in routine can mess up its natural rhythm leading to a few days of constipation whilst things return to normal.

Underlying health issues

Although the majority of constipation issues are caused by lifestyle factors there’s always the chance that it could be caused by something more sinister and so if your constipation persists then you should always consult a doctor.
How can you treat constipation?
With a greater understanding of the causes of constipation, you are now better equipped to find a solution. Here are a few simple things that anyone at home can do to help relieve and stop the reoccurrence of constipation.

Eat more fibre and drink more water

Eating the recommended daily minimum of fibre and consuming a good amount of water are the two best ways to help prevent further bouts of constipation. Try tracking your fibre intake for a week or so on a diet app to see how much you are really eating and then make small changes to get your number up.

Take a natural aid

Sometimes our bodies need a little helping hand to get things moving again which is where medications such as Movicol come in. These remedies can help to kick start the lower intestine into action, moving painful stools along so that you can begin working on preventing future bouts of constipation. 


Move more

Try to incorporate at least 20 minutes of some sort of exercise every day, even if it’s just going for a walk or a light job. This will help stimulate your digestive system and will relieve any gas blockages.


Develop a toileting routine

If you haven’t got one already then try to develop a routine for going to the toilet and then stick to it. This helps your body to get into a rhythm. If you are going abroad or are out of your rhythm then it’s extra important to eat plenty of fibre, drink plenty of fluids and to move a little to encourage your bowel to get started again. If you still find your bowel movements are out of whack then sometimes a little supplemental aid is the best way to get things moving again before they become too problematic. 

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