Constipation: What Is It, What Causes It and What Are the Symptoms?

Learn about the basics of constipation, including symptoms, prevention and how to find relief.

The Bristol Stool Chart comparing different types of stools

What is constipation?

Constipation can mean that your stools are hard and dry or that you have difficulty passing a bowel movement. In medical terms, constipation is generally considered to be fewer than three bowel movements per week.

Also, constipation is not just about not going, but also the quality of the stool. Hard, dry stools are difficult to pass. Normal stools are soft and formed, and are passed without straining.

A man with consitpation resting on a couch with his eyes closed

What causes constipation?

There are many possible causes of constipation. These can include lifestyle changes, such as diet or activity level, stress, some medications, pregnancy, or not consuming enough fibre and fluids. While most causes are not serious, constipation can also be a symptom of an underlying condition.

A man with his hands clasped around his stomach in pain from constipation

What are symptoms of constipation?

Symptoms can include few bowel movements per week, hard stools that are difficult or uncomfortable to pass, the need to strain during movement, and aches and cramping associated with bowel movements. Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Cramps, bloating or gas
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Straining when passing
  • Desire to go but inability to act
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
Constapation avoidance aids including fruits and vegetables, fiber, a glass of water and an exercise dumbell

How can I prevent constipation?

To help prevent occasional constipation, make sure to drink adequate fluids, eat a diet that is rich in fibre (including bran cereal, fresh vegetables and fruit), and maintain an active exercise routine. And, if you feel the urge to go, make sure that you do, as holding it in can cause constipation.

Illustration of the stomach large intestine small intestine and colon

What are the health risks of constipation?

Occasional constipation is normal for most people, but if your symptoms last for more than three months, your constipation is considered chronic and may be associated with other health conditions. Always speak to a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.

A hand holding a bottle of RestoraLAX

How can I find relief from occasional constipation?

For relief, try an osmotic laxative like RestoraLAX®. Unlike other laxatives, osmotic laxatives work with the water in your body to hydrate and hold water in the stool, making them softer and easier to pass. Use as directed for occasional constipation.

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