What are the top reasons for constipation and how do you address it?

June 14, 2023 3 min read

What are the top reasons for constipation and how do you address it?

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal issue that can be caused by a variety of factors. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, passing hard or dry stools, experiencing difficulty passing stools, or feeling incomplete evacuation after bowel movements.

Here are the top reasons for constipation and ways to address them:

  1. Low fiber diet: A low intake of dietary fiber can lead to constipation because fiber adds bulk to stool and helps it move through the digestive system. To address this, increasing fiber intake by incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds into the diet can be helpful.
  2. Dehydration: Dehydration can cause the body to absorb more water from the colon, making stools harder and more difficult to pass. Drinking more water and fluids can help address dehydration-related constipation.
  3. Lack of physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to constipation because physical activity helps stimulate the muscles in the intestines, promoting regular bowel movements. Increasing physical activity, such as walking or jogging, can help alleviate constipation.
  4. Medications: Certain medications, such as opioid pain relievers, antacids containing calcium or aluminum, and antidepressants, can cause constipation as a side effect. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider about any medication-related constipation and potential alternatives.
  5. Medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, and diabetes, can cause constipation. Treating and managing these underlying conditions can help alleviate constipation.
  6. Mental health conditions: Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can also contribute to constipation. Managing mental health through therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes can help address constipation caused by these conditions.
  7. Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement: Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to constipation because the longer stool remains in the colon, the harder and drier it becomes. It is important to listen to and respond to the body’s signals and have a bowel movement when the urge arises.
  8. Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause constipation. Maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in physical activity can help address constipation during pregnancy.
  9. Aging: As people age, the muscles in the intestines may weaken, leading to constipation. Engaging in physical activity and consuming a high-fiber diet can help address constipation in older adults.
  10. Imbalanced Gut Microbiome: Studies have shown that alterations in the gut microbiota, such as a reduction in the abundance of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, and an increase in potentially harmful bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae, are associated with an increased risk of constipation. Additionally, certain types of fiber, known as prebiotics, can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and improve bowel function, potentially reducing the risk of constipation.

In conclusion, constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, including low fiber diet, dehydration, lack of physical activity, medications, medical and mental health conditions, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, pregnancy, and aging. Addressing these factors through dietary changes, physical activity, hydration, and management of underlying medical and mental health conditions can help alleviate constipation and promote regular bowel movements.

References:

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017). Definition and Facts for Constipation. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/definition-facts
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2019). Constipation. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Constipation. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4059-constipation
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. (2018). The gut-brain connection. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
  5. Wald, A. (2019). Constipation. New England Journal of Medicine, 380(13), 1281-1288. doi: 10.1056/NEJMcp1809649
  6. Hoda, K. M., & Jafri, W. (2021). Constipation. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459312/
  7. Rao, S. S. C., Rattanakovit, K., & Patcharatrakul, T. (2016). Diagnosis and management of chronic constipation in adults. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 13(5), 295-305. doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2016.53
  8. Bharucha, A. E., Pemberton, J. H., & Locke III, G. R. (2013). American Gastroenterological Association technical review on constipation. Gastroenterology, 144(1), 218-238. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.10.028
  9. Parthasarathy G, Chen J, Chen X, Chia N, O'Connor HM, Gaskins HR, Bharucha AE. Relationship Between Microbiota of the Colonic Mucosa vs Feces and Symptoms, Colonic Transit, and Methane Production in Female Patients With Chronic Constipation. Gastroenterology. 2016 Mar;150(3):367-79.e1. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 17. PMID: 26477914; PMCID: PMC4763108.
  10. Zhong W, Lu X, Shi H, Zhao C, Zhang Q, Liang S, Xia Y, Wang Y, Zhang W, Wang C. Distinct microbial populations exist in the mucosa-associated microbiota of diarrhea predominant irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2017 Apr;51(4):312-321. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000635. PMID: 27607443.
  11. Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, Tito RY, Joossens M, Raes J. Stool consistency is strongly associated with gut microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes and bacterial growth rates. Gut. 2016 Mar;65(3):57-62. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2015-309618. Epub 2015 Aug 12. PMID: 26265223.
  12. Kim M, Kim CH, Hong SN, Ahn YT. Independent and Interdependent Effects of the Intestinal Microbiota and SC


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