Constipation affects almost everyone at some point. A person is considered constipated if he or she has three or fewer bowel movements a week, or has bowel movements that are hard, dry and/or painful. How often a bowel movement typically occurs determines whether a person is considered constipated.

Causes of Constipation

Constipation is the result of various conditions and issues, including the following:

  • An insufficient amount of fluid consumption
  • A diet that does not contain enough fiber
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Painful anal conditions
  • Medication
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Overuse of laxatives
  • Disease
  • Dehydration
  • Damage to the spinal cord
  • Suppressing the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medical condition

Constipation is not usually a serious condition, but it can lead to complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, fecal impaction and rectal prolapse. It is important to seek prompt medical attention for persistent constipation.

Treatment of Constipation

Most cases of constipation are temporary, and can be resolved through changes in diet and fluid consumption, or by increasing physical activity. Some patients may require medications, such as over-the-counter laxatives, to help treat constipation and encourage bowel movements.

Prevention of Constipation

Constipation can be prevented by incorporating the following healthy bowel habits:

  • Drinking water and other fluids
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Eating food that is high in fiber
  • Scheduling time to go to the bathroom
  • Recognizing the urge to have a bowel movement

Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption can also help to prevent constipation.

Additional Resources