What is Constipation? Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention tips

Updated: Jul 7

Having fewer than three bowel movements a week is, technically the definition of constipation. However, bowel movements may vary from person to person, some people have bowel movements several times a day while some have 1-2 times a week. It’s one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints and at least 2.5 million people worldwide consult their doctors each year due to constipation. Though occasional constipation is very common, while some people experience interfere with their ability of undergoing daily tasks. Chronic constipation persists for several weeks or longer, however, in some cases, an exact cause is never found.


It’s a common issue which affects people of all ages:


i) Senior citizens :- Old people tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism and less muscle contraction strength than when they were younger.


ii) Pregnant Woman :- Changes in a woman’s hormones makes her more prone to constipation. The baby inside the womb squishes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool.


iii) Those on medication :-Those who are on medications for reasons like neurological and digestive disorders tend to experience constipation.


Causes of constipation


Constipation most commonly occurs when waste or stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract or cannot be eliminated effectively from the rectum, which may cause the stool to become hard and dry.


Chronic constipation has many possible causes:


A) Blockages in the colon or rectum

Blockages in the colon or rectum may slow or stop stool movement.

Causes include

· Tiny tears in the skin around the anus (anal fissure)

· A blockage in the intestines (bowel obstruction)

· Colon cancer

· Narrowing of the colon (bowel structure)

· Other abdominal cancer that presses on the colon

· Rectal cancer

· Rectum bulge through the back wall of the vagina (rectocele)


B) Problems with the nerves around the colon and rectum


Neurological problems can affect the nerves that causes muscles in the colon and rectum to contract and move stool through the intestines.

Causes include:


· Damage to the nerves that control bodily functions (autonomic neuropathy)

· Multiple sclerosis

· Parkinson's disease

· Spinal cord injury

· Stroke


C) Difficulty with the muscles involved in the elimination


Problems with the pelvic muscles involved in having a bowel movement may cause chronic constipation.

Causes include:


· The inability to relax the pelvic muscles to allow for a bowel movement (anismus)

· Pelvic muscles that don't coordinate relaxation and contraction correctly (dyssynergia)

· Weakened pelvic muscles


D) Conditions that affect hormones in the body


Hormones help balance fluids in your body. Diseases and conditions that upset the balance of hormones may lead to constipation.

Causes include:


· Diabetes

· Overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)

· Pregnancy

· Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)


E) Other causes of constipation

  • Low intake of fiber food such as fruit, vegetables and cereals

  • Lack of physical exercise and spending long periods sitting or lying on the bed.

  • Dehydration

  • Often ignoring the urge to go to the toilet

  • Side effect of medicines

  • Change in diet or daily routine

  • Pregnancy

  • Stress, anxiety and depression

Symptoms of Constipation


Every person has a different kind of bowel habits, some people go three times a day, while some go three times a week. However, one may be considered constipated if he/she experiences the following symptoms:

  • Fewer than three bowel movements a week.

  • Stools are dry, hard and lumpy.

  • Painful bowel movement.

  • Stools are difficult to pass.

  • Stomach starts experiencing ache or cramps.

  • Bloated and nauseous.

  • Bleeding from the rectum

  • Persistent abdominal pain

  • A sense of evacuation after a bowel movement


Preventive Measures of Constipation


To help relieve constipation, simple lifestyle changes make the stools softer and easier to pass.


i) Stay hydrated always, drink 6-8 glasses of water every day.

ii) Eat plenty of fiber-rich food; fruits, vegetables and grains.

iii) Exercise regularly and manage stress.

iv) Never hold the bowel, go whenever you feel the urge.

v) Consult a doctor before taking laxatives.


Constipation gives a sense of uncomfortableness, but it’s not a life-threatening problem. It gets resolved itself without the need for prescribed treatment, but in most cases, making lifestyle changes in exercise, diet and fluid intake can be very beneficial. In order to smoothen the stool pass, one must take proper care of their bowel functioning.

rich Bowel care is a technique wherein a person manages faecal incontinence or constipation and decides a predictable time and place to evacuate the stool. When it comes to a person’s health, its observed that bowel care is the most frequently overlooked fundamental area. But in reality, taking care of the bowel movement enhances a person’s life and helps him/her against becoming a victim of constipation.