Sometimes all it takes to resolve constipation is increasing fibre intake.

Constipation is a relatively common condition, and everyone has at least one episode of constipation in their lifetime. For the lucky few, the condition resolves itself with the help of a few home remedies, warm water, and some physical activity. However, there are those who struggle to get a proper bowel movement and need medical intervention. The key is to identify the problem and get treated at the earliest to prevent complications and unwanted side effects.



What Is Constipation and How Do You Know You Have It?


From a general perspective, constipation is associated with the frequency of bowel movements and one person’s experience does not hold good for everyone. When you need to take extreme steps in order to increase the frequency or even have a single bowel movement, it is a clear sign of constipation. Getting treated immediately is imperative. Having less than three bowel movements in a week and having to strain in order to pass stools, can be considered signs of constipation. Even those individuals who are accustomed to passing stools at least once a day, need not be alarmed if they miss it two days in a row. However, if they pass hard stools, they need to make some lifestyle and dietary changes to help their bowel cycle return to normal.


Causes for Constipation


From the kind of food we eat, the amount of fluids we drink and the extent of physical activity, there are many causes for constipation. Often constipation is a side effect of certain medications as well.


The most common causes of constipation are as follows:


  • Poor Intake of Fiber in One’s Diet.

    Vegetables and fruits have a good fibre content. Fibre absorbs water better which helps make softer stools which are easier to pass. Sometimes all it takes to resolve constipation is increasing fibre intake.

  • Poor Fluid Intake.

    Drinking enough fluids is important to stay hydrated. It also plays a significant role in digestion. More fluid content helps with bowel movement and softer stools.

  • A Sedentary Lifestyle.

    Keeping active is important to stay healthy. An active lifestyle prevents several illnesses. Likewise leading a sedentary lifestyle with next to no exercise, makes your whole body lethargic. This impacts the rate of metabolism and bowel movements too.

  • Ignoring the urge to use the restroom.

    It is best for you to use the restroom as soon as you have the urge to do so. Postponing it occasionally is OK, however when you do this persistently it results in the hardening of the stools, and then constipation.

  • Medications can also cause constipation.

    Opioids are known to impact bowel movements and cause constipation in some people. Similarly, there are a few other drugs that can also cause constipation. Before starting a new course of medication, it is best to discuss the possible side effects with your physician.

  • Abuse of Laxatives.

    This may sound contradictory given that laxatives are given to help pass stools. However, when used unnecessarily and frequently to induce bowel movement (as in the case of people with eating disorders), it weakens the nerves in the colon and can ultimately lead to constipation.

  • Pregnancy.

    Women who are six weeks (or more) pregnant often complain of constipation. This could be due to increased iron content in their prenatal vitamins or due to the pressure the foetus exerts on the intestines. Taking over-the-counter drugs is not advisable and unsafe. It is best to get a doctor’s opinion.

  • Aging.

    As one grows old bodily functions tend to grow sluggish and weak. This holds good with the functioning of the colon and intestines as well. Eating a fibre-rich diet under the guidance of the family physician can help overcome this condition.

  • Blockages in the Colon or Rectum

    If there is any blockage in the colon or rectum this can make passing stools difficult and even painful. The blockage could be caused by a cancerous growth, narrowing of the colon, rectum bulge through the back wall of the vagina, anal fissure, or obstruction in the intestines.

  • Problem with the Muscles or Nerves involved with Elimination

    Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury and Stroke can sometimes affect the nerves that are involved in the contraction of the colon that helps the stools move through the intestines. Similarly, any damage or problem with the pelvic muscles can lead to chronic constipation.

Preventing Constipation


  • Consume a fibre-rich diet.
  • Drink enough water on a daily basis.
  • Stay active and fit.
  • Avoid taking over-the-counter drugs without consulting a doctor.
  • Do not abuse anti-depressants and sedatives.
  • Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movement
  • Do not ignore the urge to pass stools.

CONSULTANT - GASTROENTEROLOGIST at Dr.Kamakshi Memorial Hospitals
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