What causes constipation?

Your stool gets hard and dry when your colon (large intestine) absorbs too much water.

In most cases, as food moves through your colon, the colon absorbs water while it makes stool. Muscle movements (contractions) push the stool toward your rectum. When the stool gets to the rectum, most of the water has been soaked up. The stool is now solid.

If you have constipation, your colon’s muscle movements are too slow. This makes the stool move through your colon too slowly. The colon absorbs too much water. The stool gets 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 moving your bowels when you feel the urge 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

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Difficult and painful bowel movements
  • Less than 3 bowel movements a week
  • Feeling bloated
  • Not having much energy
  • Belly (abdominal) pain
  • Ineffective straining to move your bowels

If another health problem makes you more likely to have constipation, take advice with our specielist for treating that problem.

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