Constipation - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Constipation

The most common gastrointestinal problem, constipation is when your stools are painful or they do not happen often enough. You may have constipation if:

  • You have bowel movements less than three times a week
  • Your stool is hard, dry, and in small pieces

Normal bowel movements vary depending on the person. They may happen as often as three times a day or they may happen just three times a week.

What Causes Constipation?

In most cases, as food moves through your colon, the colon absorbs water while it makes stool. If you have constipation, your colon's muscle movements are too slow. This makes the stool move through your colon too slowly, causing the colon to absorb too much water and the stool to get very hard and dry.

Some of the most common diet and lifestyle causes of constipation are:

  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Not drinking enough liquids
  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Not taking a bowel movement when you need to
  • Changes in your lifestyle, such as travel, pregnancy, and old age

Other causes of constipation include:

  • Medicines
  • A problem with how your stomach and bowels work (such as irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Your intestine does not work well
  • Taking too many medicines that help to loosen your bowels (laxatives)
  • Metabolic problems such as thyroid disease
  • Intestinal blockage

Treating Constipation

In most cases, diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce constipation symptoms. They can also stop it from happening. These changes may include:

  • Drinking more water and juice
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Giving yourself time to have a bowel movement each day
  • Eating more fiber
  • Taking laxatives
  • Stopping or changing medicine

If you are experiencing constipation, talk to your primary care provider or a gastroenterologist to determine an appropriate treatment plan.