what everybody ought to know about the Causes of Constipation

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

Main Causes of Constipation

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.

Other less known Causes of Constipation

Apart from lack of fiber and low fluid consumption, other less known causes of constipation include:

  • Inadequate exercise or prolonged inactivity
  • Inadequate liver function - bile salts produced in the liver are natural laxatives
  • Advanced age
  • Muscle disorders such as multiple sclerosis
  • Structural abnormalities such as hemorrhoid, anal fissure or a pocket of infection at the anus can create a spasm of pain strong enough to contract muscles and hinder the evacuation of stools.
  • Bowel diseases such as cancer, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bowel obstruction due to a tumor or hernia
  • Neurological disorders such as injuries to the spinal column or injuries to the nerves that usually regulate bowel movement
  • Prolonged use of laxatives may cause damage to the nerve cells in the wall of the colon
  • Poor diet, especially heavy consumption of junk food
  • Side effect of some medications, such as iron supplements, cough syrups, pain medications that contain codeine, some antidepressants, blood pressure and heart medications, calcium supplements and some antihistamines, and antacids containing aluminum
  • Severe depression
  • Metabolic disturbances such as high levels of calcium and low levels of thyroid hormone
  • Medical disorders such as Parkinson's disease, scleroderma, lupus, strokes, kidney disease, diabetes, muscular spasm or under-active or hyperactive thyroid

Please note: As so many factors can cause constipation, don't assume that what causes constipation in your case is just your diet. If diet alone doesn't solve the problem in a few weeks, investigate other avenues with the help of your doctor.

It Could Be All in Your Mind

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.

A Laxative Too Far

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.

A Word of Caution:

Please note - You need to see your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • An abrupt change in your bowel habits.
  • If symptoms of constipation persist for two weeks or longer, despite self-care measures, or if persistent constipation is accompanied by weight loss.
  • If fever or abdominal pain accompanies constipation.
  • If cramping or pain is severe or disrupts your daily routine.
  • If you notice blood in the stools.
  • If the constipation develops into diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • If you have recently started taking a medication that may be causing constipation.


Constipation Related Articles:

What Everybody Ought to Know About the Causes of Constipation

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

Prune Juice for Constipation and Other Health Benefits

Other Related Articles:

Benefits of Fiber and High Fiber Foods in Your Diet - Increasing fiber in your diet can help preventing and treating many conditions

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Best Fiber Supplement - Why is Lepicol the best fiber supplement?

Constipation during Pregnancy


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.

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