Constipation is a common yet often misunderstood condition that affects people of all ages. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into what constipation is, exploring its various types, symptoms, and the nuances that come with it. 

From understanding the basics of bowel movements to recognizing the signs of chronic constipation, this guide provides a thorough understanding of the condition. We will discuss the common causes of constipation, from dietary factors like not enough fiber to the impact of certain medications and lifestyle factors. 

What Is Constipation? Types and Symptoms

Constipation is a condition characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool. It’s essential to consider one’s medical history when diagnosing constipation, as it can vary greatly in frequency, symptoms, and severity among individuals:

Regular constipation

What is it? This is the most common type, where individuals experience occasional difficulty with passing stools. It’s often temporary and can be managed with lifestyle adjustments.

Common symptoms: Symptoms include fewer than three bowel movements per week, straining during passing stools, hard or dry stools, and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.

Severe constipation

What is it? More intense than regular constipation, it may involve fewer bowel movements and more discomfort.

Common symptoms: Along with infrequent bowel movements, symptoms include significant straining, abdominal pain, and possible fecal impaction.

Chronic constipation

What is it? This long-term condition involves persistently difficult or infrequent bowel movements over several weeks or longer.
Common symptoms: Chronic sufferers might experience ongoing discomfort, bloating, and the necessity for manual maneuvers to remove stool.

What Are the Main Causes of Constipation

what is constipation

Understanding the underlying causes of constipation is crucial for effective treatment and prevention. Here are several key factors that contribute to this common digestive issue:

Dietary factors

  • Low fiber intake. A diet lacking in high-fiber foods like whole grains and fresh fruits can lead to constipation. Fiber helps to bulk up the stool and promotes movement through the digestive tract.
  • Dehydration. Not drinking enough fluids makes the stool hard and difficult to pass because the colon absorbs water from waste, making it drier.
  • Overuse of dairy products. For some, too much dairy can cause constipation.
  • Excessive consumption of processed foods. These tend to be low in fiber and high in fats, which can slow down the digestive process.

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Physical inactivity

  • Lack of exercise. Engaging in regular exercise is key for stimulating intestinal activity. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to constipation.

Specific diseases or conditions

  • Conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis can affect the muscles and nerves that help move food through the digestive tract.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Those with IBS may experience constipation as a predominant symptom.
  • Endocrine and metabolic conditions. Issues such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and hypercalcemia can affect bodily fluids and hormones, contributing to constipation.


  • Various medications, including pain relievers, specific antihypertensives, antispasmodics, and certain antidepressants, can lead to constipation as a side effect.

Changes in Routine or Lifestyle

  • Travel or other changes to a person’s daily routine can affect the digestive system.
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement. Regularly ignoring the urge to go to the bathroom can lead to constipation.
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression can influence the digestive system and may lead to constipation.

Overuse of Laxatives

  • Regular use of laxatives can lead to dependency, with the bowel losing its natural ability to contract and function properly.


  • The hormonal changes and physical pressure of the growing uterus during pregnancy often contribute to constipation.


  • Aging can affect the efficiency of the digestive system, with decreased muscle tone and reduced physical activity playing roles in constipation.

Bowel Obstruction

  • Physical blockages, such as tumors or scar tissue in the colon or rectum, can cause constipation by obstructing the normal passage of stool.

Understanding these various factors is key to effectively managing constipation, whether through dietary changes, physical activity, or medical intervention for more serious underlying conditions.

What Are Symptoms of Constipation: The Checklist

what is constipation

Understanding the symptoms of constipation is essential for identifying and addressing this common condition effectively:

  • Infrequent bowel movements. One of the most telltale signs of constipation is having fewer than three movements per week. This reduction in bowel movement frequency is a key indicator and can lead to further complications if not addressed.Straining. Experiencing difficulty or needing to exert significant effort to pass a bowel movement is a common symptom of constipation. This straining is often a result of dry stools that are difficult to pass, an issue frequently linked to not enough fluids or fiber in the diet.
  • Hard or lumpy stools. The presence of hard, dry, or lumpy stools is a clear sign of constipation. This condition can be caused by a diet low in fiber-rich foods or whole grains, leading to less moisture in the large intestine and harder stools.
  • Feeling of incomplete evacuation. A sensation that not all stool has been passed after a bowel movement is another symptom of constipation. This feeling can contribute to a cycle of discomfort and straining, exacerbating the issue.
  • Pain or discomfort. Individuals with constipation often report pain or general abdominal discomfort, including bloating. This discomfort can be the result of accumulated waste in the digestive tract, causing pressure and fullness.
  • Manual maneuvers. In severe cases, the need to use manual methods to pass a bowel movement, such as applying pressure on the abdomen or using a finger to remove stool, is indicative of significant constipation. This symptom suggests a severe slowdown in the digestive system.
  • Dependency on laxatives. A reliance on laxatives for passing stools indicates that the body’s natural ability to process waste might be compromised. Overuse of laxatives, especially stimulant laxatives, can lead to dependency and exacerbate constipation issues.

Recognizing these symptoms is key to effectively managing constipation. Whether relief comes from dietary adjustments, such as incorporating fiber supplements or increasing fluid intake, or from medical interventions, understanding these signs is essential. 

Tips To Prevent Constipation

tips on constipation

Effective management and prevention of constipation involve a combination of dietary, lifestyle, and behavioral adjustments. Here are some strategies to help reduce the risk of developing constipation:

Increase fiber intake

A diet rich in fibrous foods is crucial in preventing constipation. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains into your daily meals can significantly improve bowel habits. Whole grain foods like bran cereal, along with high-fiber fruits, add necessary bulk to the diet, facilitating easier stool passage.

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Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, is essential in constipation prevention. Adequate hydration helps to soften stool, making it easier to pass. This is particularly important when increasing dietary fiber intake, as fiber works best when absorbed with sufficient water.

Regular exercise

Engaging in regular physical activity is key to stimulating intestinal activity and preventing constipation. Activities like walking, swimming, or cycling can help keep the bowels functioning properly and prevent chronic constipation.

Heed nature’s call

Do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Delaying the number two can lead to harder, dry stools that are more difficult to pass. Maintaining regular bowel movements is crucial for preventing constipation.

Consider probiotics

Probiotics may help balance the gut microbiota, promoting regular bowel movements. Including probiotic-rich foods or supplements in your diet can support digestive health and prevent constipation.

Chew food thoroughly

Efficient digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing food thoroughly ensures easier digestion and smoother passage through the large intestine, reducing the risk of constipation.

Implementing these tips can significantly reduce the likelihood of constipation. However, if constipation persists despite these measures, or if it’s accompanied by symptoms like rectal prolapse, abdominal pain, or changes in bowel habits, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider. 

A healthcare provider may recommend further dietary changes, fiber supplements, or conduct blood tests and a physical examination to determine the cause and recommend appropriate constipation treatment. While doing so, the healthcare provider will also look into your medical history to see if the patient has had any related issues in the past. 

Remember, while home remedies can be effective, persistent or severe constipation may require medical intervention, especially if factors like physical activity and diet adjustments don’t relieve constipation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Constipation

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In addressing constipation, several common questions often arise. Here are some answers to these frequently asked queries, infused with key insights and advice:

When to seek medical advice for constipation?

Medical attention should be sought if constipation is persistent, significantly disrupts daily life, or is accompanied by concerning symptoms like rectal prolapse, abdominal pain, blood tests indicating abnormalities, anal fissures, or noticeable weight loss. 

It’s particularly crucial to seek medical advice if home remedies or regular changes in diet and exercise haven’t improved the condition.

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What are treatment options for constipation?

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like dietary fiber supplements and certain types of laxatives can be effective. However, it’s important to use these treatments judiciously, as frequent use of laxatives, especially stimulant laxatives, can make constipation worse in the long term. 

Dietary and lifestyle changes, including increasing fiber intake with high-fiber foods or supplements like ColonBroom, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular physical activity, are often recommended. In some cases, especially if constipation results from an underlying medical condition, additional treatments or medical procedures might be necessary.

The Complete Guide to Understanding Constipation and Finding Relief: Key Takeaways

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To effectively manage constipation, identify common causes like low fiber intake and inactivity. Increase fiber and hydration, maintain regular exercise, and avoid laxative dependency. For persistent or severe symptoms, consult a doctor for constipation diagnosis and treatment. A comprehensive approach is crucial for prevention and relief.

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