The Cause of Constipation
by Dr. Edward F. Group III

Constipation, in fact, has many causes. The cause of your constipation may be a poor diet, lack of exercise and water, or something more serious. This article will review the main causes on constipation in the hope we can pinpoint the cause of constipation for you.

If youíre like many Americans, constipation is something youíve experienced. Over 4 million people each year report being constipated. To understand why you may be suffering, you first need to know exactly what constipation means.

Defining Constipation

Being constipated means that you have difficulty passing stools. Many people have been taught that constipation is related to the number of times you have a bowel movement.

In reality, constipation has relatively little to do with how many times youíve had a bowel movement. Itís normal for someone to have anywhere from 3 bowel movements per week to 3 bowel movements a day. If your stools are soft and pass easily and you pass them at least 3 times per week, youíre not constipated.

In order to be diagnosed with constipation, you must have at least two of the following symptoms for at least 12 months:

  • Hard or pellet-like stools at least 25% of the time
  • Straining with bowel movements at least 25% of the time
  • A feeling that you donít completely empty your bowels at least 25% of the time
  • Fewer than 3 bowel movements per week
  • Fewer than 2 bowel movements per week with no other symptoms
The Cause of Constipation
The most common cause of constipation is a lack of adequate amounts of water and fiber in the diet. The longer the stool sits in the large intestine waiting to be passed, the harder and less easy to pass it becomes.

There are many other reasons that you may find yourself constipated. Common causes of constipation include:
  • A change in schedule, such as traveling or anything that changes your daily routine
  • Waiting to have a bowel movement
  • An increase in your stress levels
  • A lack of exercise
  • Loss of activity as a result of injury or aging
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication use
Constipation may also be a result of another health problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome or diabetes.

Older people (over the age of 65) experience constipation more often than other adults. This is often due to an increase in medications and loss of mobility.

A more uncommon cause of constipation results from an actual obstruction in the large intestine. This can be caused by an obstruction such as a tumor or gallstone that is wedged in the intestine.

The bowel may also be obstructed if the large intestine has twisted on itself. Another possible cause of bowel obstruction is from connective tissue diseases such as lupus or scleroderma.

If youíre experiencing symptoms from constipation for more than two weeks, itís a good idea to seek the advice of your doctor. Together you can pinpoint the causes of your constipation and choose the best treatment options.


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