Learn About Ailments | Constipation


Constipation is a digestive condition, where difficulty is experienced in bowel opening. Pain and straining may be experienced when passing motions, and movements occur less often than usual. Other symptoms include a feeling of incomplete emptying, and passing dry, hard faeces.

In This Article
Watch the constipation video Causes of constipation
Symptoms of constipation Diagnosis of constipation


Did you know?
  • The NHS spends nearly 67 million on laxatives each year
  • 10% of nursing time is spent dealing with constipation
  • A third of the UK population suffer with digestive problems such as constipation
  • The most likely group to report constipation is women aged 65 and over
  • 40% of women who are pregnant suffer with constipation

Constipation can be caused by a specific condition but most cases have no underlying cause for concern. Identifying the exact cause of constipation can be difficult but there are a number of factors which increase the chances of being constipated.

The common factors causing constipation include:
  • Lack of fibre – not enough fruit, vegetables or cereal in the diet
  • Lifestyle changes – such as a change to routine or eating habits
  • Toilet shyness – lack of privacy when using the toilet (such as public conveniences)
  • Ignoring the urge to use the toilet and pass a stool
  • Lack of movement – immobility or low levels of physical activity
  • Lack of fluids  - not drinking enough water
  • Weight problems – overweight, underweight
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
Constipation can also be a side effect of taking certain prescription medicines such as:
  • Antidepressants
  • Calcium supplements
  • Diuretics
  • Iron supplements
  • Epilepsy meds
  • Antacids
Pregnant women in the first trimester have an increased chance of suffering with constipation usually. Hormonal changes causes the extra production of progesterone which acts as a muscle relaxant. An increase in this hormone prevents the natural movement of waste and stools through the bowel because muscles find it more difficult to contract.
  • Other conditions that cause constipation include:
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Parkinson's disease
  • IBS
  • Injuries to the spinal cord
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Kidney failure
  • Anal fissures (small tears to the skin inside the anus)
It should be noted that constipation is rarely a sign of a serious underlying condition such as those mentioned above.

People experience bowel movements in different ways and perfectly healthy adults can go to toilet once a day while others may only go every 3-4 days. Some children are likely to pass stools several times in one day while others may only go 2-3 times per week.

The symptoms of constipation typically involve difficulty passing a stool or noticing that you pass stools significantly less than you're used to. You may also find that passing a stool is less effective and your bowel doesn't feel completely empty.

Passing a stool may become difficult because:
  • It is dry and hard
  • It is lumpy and hard
  • It is abnormally large or small
These symptoms may be followed by stomach ache, stomach cramps, bloatedness, nausea or poor appetite.

It is unlikely that you'll need a physical examination by a GP to confirm constipation as a diagnosis can be made based on your symptoms and questioning you about bowel habits, diet and lifestyle changes.

If the GP suspects a more serious underlying problem they may perform a physical examination. This will happen if you have dry and hard stools collecting in the rectum (known as faecal impaction).

The GP will feel your abdomen and then get you to lie on one side. They will then use a lubricated glove and insert a finger into your rectum to feel for any collected stools or problems.

Therapies to consider
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Personal Training Pilates Reiki
Shiatsu Yoga


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