Constipation 101

Common Causes of Constipation

For most people, constipation can be traced to a few common causes, such as how much fibre they are eating, their fluid intake, use of certain medications, avoiding going to the bathroom, or how much physical activity they are getting.


Foods rich in fibre, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals, help hold water in the stool to increase stool volume, making it easier to pass. Eating a diet dominated by low-fibre, starchy foods like white bread and white rice instead of whole grain versions, is a recipe for constipation.


One of the colon’s main functions is to absorb excess water from waste once it has moved through the small intestine. When we don’t drink enough fluids, the body tries to conserve water in the blood by removing additional water from the stool. Stools that contain less water are difficult to pass. If you’re thirsty, your body is telling you to drink up. If you notice dark coloured urine, that’s also a sign that it’s well past time to rehydrate.


Some medicines that doctors prescribe to treat other health problems may cause constipation. Check with your doctor first to see if you are taking any medicines that may cause constipation.


Sometimes we put off going to the bathroom when it doesn’t quite fit our schedule. But habitually ignoring the urge to pass a bowel movement can lead to constipation.

Additionally, other medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes, intestinal blockage, or low thyroid hormones, as well as problems with the colon, may also contribute to constipation.

Tolmach D. JAMA. 2013;310:1416
Greenburger NJ. Constipation in adults — Digestive Disorders — Merck Manuals

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