Cause of Constipation

By Pharmacist Anusuya Kashi

Cause of constipation

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), about 42 million people in the US are affected by constipation.

However, there doesn't seem to be much public dialogue on this topic, perhaps because many with constipation hesitate to admit their problem.

There are several factors that cause constipation, as listed below. Fortunately for most people, it is quite possible to successfully deal with constipation by adopting a few simple changes to one’s lifestyle.

Reasons for Constipation

10 Causes of Constipation 
and Remedies for Each

1.  Insufficient fiber in the diet

There are two types of fiber contained in food – soluble and insoluble. 

Neither type is digested, which means they add bulk to stool. Bulk is needed for peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the colon that move stool along.

Soluble and insoluble fiber differ in the kind of effect they have on the digestive process. Soluble fiber produces a type of jelly, adding moisture and softness to stool.

Insoluble fiber works somewhat like a sponge, which helps to keep stool moist. Another benefit of insoluble fiber is that, if a person’s gut flora is functioning properly, it feeds on it, and in the process produces the B complex of vitamins. 

A course of antibiotics can wipe out our gut flora, requiring a daily probiotic to replenish it.

People whose diets don’t include 25g. to 35g. of fiber are more likely to suffer this cause of constipation.


  • Include insoluble fiber-rich food such as whole grain products and wheat bran

  • Eat foods rich in soluble fiber, like beans, lentils, apples, oranges, berries, figs, pears and broccoli.

  • Limit consumption of low-fiber foods such as meats, chocolate, cheese, eggs and other high-fat foods.

2.  Not drinking enough water

Drinking water helps to keep a person hydrated. Dehydration is one of the major causes of constipation. 

When a person is dehydrated, the colon is instructed to pull extra water from stool to meet more urgent bodily needs. Stool becomes dry, hard and difficult to pass making this another common cause of constipation.

Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, colas, sodas and alcoholic beverages function as a diuretic, which can cause too much water to be flushed out through the kidneys, resulting in dehydration.

People who drink a lot of these drinks may find that they have a greater problem with constipation.


  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.

  • Consume herbal tea, soup, and vegetable or fruit juice.

  • Increase intake of fluids in hot weather and in between intense exercise.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol when already constipated.

3.  Resisting “the urge to go”

Anther cause of constipation occurs when people put off responding when they feel the urge to go. 

This means that stool stays in the colon longer, causing more water to be extracted. Sometimes another urge to go doesn’t come till the next day.

There are several reasons why people delay when the feel the urge to defecate.

  • They may be preoccupied with something important and don’t want to interrupt it with a trip to the toilet.

  • There are in a situation, like school or work, where they don’t feel the freedom to go to the bathroom.

  • They feel uncomfortable using a public toilet.

  • A bathroom isn’t immediately available.

  • A bathroom that is available may be unsanitary, even filthy. Women are especially bothered by this.

The more often that the urge to have a bowel movement is ignored, the weaker the urge becomes. This can result in chronic constipation. (what causes chronic constipation)


Go to the toilet as soon as the urge for a bowel movement is felt. Work hard not to put it off until later. Over time, this urge can start appearing at a fixed time every day, making it easier to go regularly and easily avoid this cause of constipation.

4.  Physical inactivity

lazy cause of constipation

Constipation is more common in the elderly. 

One of the reasons for this is a lack of sufficient physical activity. Exercise helps to speed up the breathing and heart rate. This inturn stimulates the contraction of the muscles that line the walls of the intestine. 

When there is not enough physical activity, food takes longer to move through the intestines, and lose more and more water. Stool becomes dry, hard and difficult to eliminate.


Get some exercise every day. Walk, jog, run, dance or swim to get the body moving. If exercising after eating, allow at least an hour between the meal and exercise.

5.  Medications

Certain drugs can be yet another cause of constipation. These include:

  • Painkillers

  • Antidepressants

  • Aluminium-containing antacids

  • Calcium channel blockers

  • Anticonvulsants

  • Diuretics

People on these medications are at a greater risk for constipation. The risk is greater for those who do not get enough fiber and water in their diet.


Ask your doctor if there is a substitute medication that he can prescribe that has less of a constipation side effect.

Increase the amount of fiber and fluids consumed. 

Take a daily magnesium supplement, which can help to keep stool moist.

A magnesium supplement may have other health benefits as well.

6.  Hormonal problems

Another cause of constipation are hormones such as estrogen and progesterone and thyroid and parathyroid hormones tend to affect bowel movements. 

That is why those who suffer from hormonal problems such as hypothyroidism tend to have more of a problem with constipation. The problem is compounded during menstruation and pregnancy.


  • Seek treatment for thyroid and parathyroid hormone problems.

  • Eat a fiber rich diet

  • Get enough fluids to stay hydrated

  • Avoid constipating foods during menstruation and pregnancy

  • Take a daily magnesium supplement 

7.  Diseases

Constipation may sometimes be one of the symptoms of a disorder related to the gastrointestinal tract.

  1. In colonic inertia, the muscles or nerves of the colon do not function as they should and this interferes with the movement of food through the intestine and out of the body, leading to constipation.

  2. With pelvic floor dysfunction, the muscles of the pelvic floor are unable to function normally. As a result, movement of stool through the bowel does not occur as it should, leading to constipation.

  3. Diseases of the central nervous system, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, can interfere with the proper movement of the food through the intestines.

  4. Hypothyroidism, diabetes or cancer in the digestive tract also place a person at a greater risk of constipation.


When constipation is caused because of a disease, it is important to target the underlying condition. 

However, there isn’t a remedy available to treat the disease, the only way to avoid constipation is to take a non-habit forming laxative, one that doesn’t pose any safety hazard to the body.

Perhaps the best of these is a magnesium supplement. Just 300 to 400 mg. a day of magnesium may be enough to effectively prevent and treat constipation symptoms.

8.  Pregnancy

Another cause of constipation can be found when looking at pregnancy.  

As much as 40% of constipated women experience constipation at some point in their pregnancy.

There are numerous reasons for this, including an increase in the level of the hormone progesterone which is needed for the growth of the fetus. 

Progesterone tends to cause a relaxation of the gut muscles, slowing down the passage of food and leading to constipation.

The following also may contribute to pregnancy related constipation:

  • Less physical activity

  • Consumption of iron supplements

  • Pressure exerted by the uterus on the colon

  • Added stress during pregnancy


  • Consume a diet rich in fiber

  • Drink greater amount of fluids every day

  • Avoid processed foods that aggravate constipation

  • Stick to a safe level of regular exercise

  • Keep calm with relaxation and deep breathing techniques

  • If absolutely necessary, use a laxative recommended by your doctor for use during pregnancy

9.  Frequent use of laxatives

Some individuals are addicted to laxatives to keep their bowels working smoothly. 

Although this may help temporarily, over time the gut can become addicted to the external stimulus provided by the laxative and lose it’s natural ability to stimulate peristalsis. 

When this happens, chronic constipation can result.


Find other solutions to deal with constipation.

  • A change in diet, eating more fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts will increase fiber intake

  • Go to the store and get a fiber supplement like Metamucil.

  • Take a magnesium supplement every day to help keep stool moist, soft and slippery.

  • Wait for the body to generate the urge to go rather than push it to do so by self-medication with laxatives.

Check out this webpage for an evaluation of the types of laxatives on the market

10.  Disruption of one’s normal routine

  • When a person’s normal daily routine is disrupted, for instance by taking a trip, it can lead to constipation

  • Anxiety and stress, sometimes caused by a change in routine, are known to reduce peristalsis

  • Disturbed eating and sleep patterns can change the body’s metabolism, resulting in constipation


  • Try to maintain regular times for eating and sleeping 

  • Avoid highly processed fast food while traveling

  • Choose salads and other fiber-rich foods

  • Take a natural laxative only if it becomes very difficult to have bowel movements for an extended period

  • Take a daily magnesium supplement

Conclusion, cause of constipation

There are numerous factors that may contribute to the cause of constipation.

Understanding the specific cause of a particular episode of constipation is very important. Once the cause is known, it is easier to find the most effective remedy to deal with it.

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