Before discussing the causes of constipation, you might find it helpful to answer first another question: What is constipation? After all, you can't successfully deal with a problem unless you know what causes it, don't you agree?
Definition of constipation: Constipation is difficulty in passing stools or the infrequent passage of hard, dry stools as a result of food moving slowly through the large intestine.
This slow passage of stools cause excess fluid to be absorbed, making faeces dry out more and more until eventually the bowel opens through sheer weight of the material, usually leaving the sufferer feeling that the rectum is still full.
Read more on the Symptoms of Constipation and how to determine the Best Transit Time
The causes of constipation can be many, but in most cases constipation arises from insufficient amounts of fiber and not enough consumption of fluids in the diet.
Unlike vitamins and minerals, fiber isn't absorbed by the digestive tract. Instead it spends a long time in the intestine, absorbing large amounts of fluid.
When fiber absorbs water, stool gradually swell, getting bigger and wetter. Unlike small stools, which can accumulate for days before moving on, large stools are moved out of the intestine much more quickly. And because large stools are much softer than small ones, there's less straining when they do move.
So, in a nutshell, the best step you can take to relieve constipation naturally is to increase the fiber in your diet as well as drink sufficient water.
The page on High Fiber Diet Plan explains the nuts and bolts of introducing fiber in your diet.
Apart from lack of fiber and low fluid consumption, other less known causes of constipation include:
No, I don't mean that you're imagining it. What I mean is that your attitude toward bowel movements can be one of the reasons for constipation.
It's a fact that some people may be chronically constipated because they don't want to take the time to have a bowel movement or don't like to have bowel movements at work, so they ignore the urge.
Problem is, the longer the stools spend time in the colon the more water is absorbed back into the body and stools get drier and harder.
Also, when you ignore your body's urges, the rectum gets used to being stretched and fails to respond normally. Feces back up into the colon, causing discomfort.
So when your body gives you a signal, stop what you're doing and go to the bathroom! If you dislike having a bowel movement at work, school or in a public toilet, readjust your attitude and get used to the idea.
Overuse of laxative is common and makes the problem even worse. In fact, it can become one of the causes of constipation in its own right.
Chronic use of laxatives, even herbal laxatives, causes the bowels to become lazy and the muscles become dependent on laxatives to constrict. People often find they need more laxatives to have the same effect. Some laxatives can cause damage to the nerve cells in the wall of the colon.
So, what if you have used too many laxatives? You need to retrain your body to have bowel movements on its own.
Try sitting on the toilet each morning for 20 minutes and relax. Over time your body will remember how to relax and function normally. Plus you need to follow all the other suggestions found on the next pages.
The 6 Most Common Symptoms of Constipation - Also explaining what bowel transit time is and how to test it
How to Select the Best Foods That Relieve Constipation - Discussing the importance of fiber and water in the diet
The Best High Fiber Diet Plan That Can Help You Relieve Constipation - Explaining how fiber works to keep you regular
5 Best Foods for Constipation That Work (Part 1) - Discussing apples, beans, berries, flaxseed and dried fruits
The 6 Best Foods for Constipation That You Need to Know About (Part 2) - Discussing dark leafy greens, ginger, honey, rhubarb, squash and coffee
Benefits of Fiber and High Fiber Foods in Your Diet - Increasing fiber in your diet can help preventing and treating many conditions
Best Fiber Supplement - Why is Lepicol the best fiber supplement?
1) Balch, P., CNC, (2000) Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-To-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, New York: Avery
2) Lipski, E., Ph.D., CCN, (2005) Digestive Wellness: How to Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion (3rd Edition): Completely Revised and Updated Third Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill
3) Yeager, S., (2207) The Doctors Book of Food Remedies, New York: Rodale Inc.
5 Best Foods for Constipation That Work
(Part 1) - Discussing Apples, Beans, Berries, Flaxseed and Dried Fruits
The 6 Best Foods for Constipation That You Need to Know About
(Part 2) - Discussing Dark Leafy Greens, Ginger, Honey, Rhubarb, Squash and Coffee