What are Causes of Constipation?

There are many causes of constipation (often referred to as "irregularity"), and the Mayo Clinic website and other sites list many:

  • Inadequate fluid intake or dehydration
  • Inadequate amounts of fiber in your diet (Americans typically get only 5-14 grams per day)
  • Dairy products
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement or delaying until later
  • Lack of physical activity (especially in older adults)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Changes in lifestyle or routine, including pregnancy, aging and travel
  • Illness
  • Frequent use or misuse of laxatives
  • Specific diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, thyroid disease, MS. Uremia, hypercalcemia, poor glycemic control, amyloidosis, lupus, scleroderma and Parkinson's disease
  • Problems with the colon and rectum, such as intestinal obstruction or diverticulosis
  • Certain medications, including pain medications, diuretics and those used to treat Parkinson's disease, high blood pressure and depression
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Hormonal disturbances, such as an underactive thyroid gland
  • Anal fissures and hemorrhoids, which can produce a spasm of the anal sphincter muscle
  • Loss of body salts through vomiting or diarrhea
  • Injuries to the spinal cord, which can affect the nerves that lead to and from the intestine.
  • In rare cases, intestinal slowdown may indicate more-serious medical conditions, such as colorectal cancer, hormonal disturbances or autoimmune diseases

A decrease in bowel movements in children might indicate Hirschsprung's disease, a congenital condition that results from missing nerve cells in the colon. Most likely, however, it occurs because they are afraid to use the toilet, simply don’t want to use it, or just don’t want to interrupt what they are doing and go to the bathroom.

Now that you know the causes of constipation, you can take preventative measures to stop it from becoming chronic constipation!

When Should You See A Doctor About Causes of Constipation?

According to the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayoclinic.com) you should see your doctor if:

  • Intestinal slowdown or a change in bowel movements is a new problem for you, or if symptoms are severe and last longer than three weeks.
  • Bowel movements are occurring more than 3 days apart, even after you’ve made the appropriate changes in diet or exercise
  • You have intense abdominal pain
  • You have blood in your stool
  • Constipation alternates with diarrhea
  • You have rectal pain
  • You have thin, pencil-like stools
  • You experience unexplained weight loss

What Constipation Treatments are Available?

To learn about what conventional treatments can help with this condition, see the next page.

Read about probiotics for constipation here.

Go back to explanation of constipation.

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