What causes constipation?
Constipation in adults has many possible causes, and some people seem to be more susceptible to it than others. It is often difficult to pinpoint just one as there isn't always an obvious reason. But some of the main causes are:
- Diet - Dietary fibre provides the bulk that helps to speed the passage of waste food through the bowel. Lack of fibre results in harder, more compact stools, which take longer to pass through.
- Lack of fluids - Everyone is different, but the body can need up to 2 litres a day to function efficiently. Without enough fluids, waste matter dries out, making it harder to move through the bowel.
- Lack of exercise - if you don't exercise often, things can slow down including the muscle contractions that move waste matter through the bowel.
- Pregnancy - hormonal and physical changes are possible causes.
- Menopause and menstruation - hormonal and lifestyle changes at these times can cause constipation.
- Stress - constipation can be caused by stress.
- Ageing - a lot of bodily functions slow down with age and the digestive system is just one of them.
- Medicines - whilst effective, some commonly used medicines may cause constipation, particularly certain painkillers (e.g. codeine), iron tablets and some antacids (e.g aluminium hydroxide).
- Ignoring the urge to pass stool can also cause constipation.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers often have constipation, sometimes alternating with diarrhoea. In IBS, cramping pains and discomfort in the bowel and rectum are common.
- Holiday constipation - is quite common. Any change of routine or diet can cause constipation.