What Are the Main Causes of Constipation?
Most people experience constipation at some point in their life. In fact, an estimated 42 million Americans deal with the discomfort and inconvenience of constipation. It is more common in women, non-caucasian, and older adults - with 40-60% of older adults dealing with constipation on a regular basis.
Common Causes of Constipation
What is Constipation?
Constipation is most commonly defined as passing lumpy, dry, and/or hard stools and having bowel movements fewer than three times per week. Constipation can be chronic or acute.
Acute constipation is shorter-term and can generally be relieved by minor lifestyle changes and/or medication.
Chronic constipation can last for months, or even years. Minor changes in lifestyle don’t relieve chronic constipation and it is generally disruptive to a person’s daily life.
It is important to have any form of constipation diagnosed and treated by a physician.
What Causes Constipation?
Constipation can have several causes, but the most common causes include:
Common Cause of Constipation: Low-Fiber Diets
One of the most common causes of constipation is a low-fiber diet. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, and grains that our bodies don't fully digest. There are two terms used to describe fiber—soluble and insoluble—and both types are carbs that are found in plants.
Insoluble fiber is particularly helpful in preventing constipation, as it helps draw water into the stool as it passes through the intestines, hydrating and softening stool and making it easier to pass. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include whole grains, wheat bran, non-sugary cereals, seeds, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables.
Common Cause of Constipation: Health Conditions
Certain health conditions that can increase the risk of constipation include spinal cord injury or illness, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Pregnancy, surgery, hormonal changes, and conditions that affect metabolism can also increase the risk of constipation.
Common Cause of Constipation: Medications
Over-the-counter medications like diuretics, iron supplements, antihistamines, ibuprofen, naproxen, and antacids can cause constipation as well.Prescription medications known to increase the risk of constipation include narcotic pain medications such as opioids, blood pressure medications, antispasmodics, anti-nauseants, some anti-depressants, and anticholinergics used to treat urinary incontinence.
In addition, overuse of laxatives can cause the bowel to become reliant upon them to pass stool, increasing the risk of constipation.
Medication & Lifestyle Changes to Relieve Constipation
How is Constipation Treated?
Treatment for constipation usually begins with lifestyle and diet changes, such as maintaining a regular bowel routine, a fitness regime, a high-fiber, balanced diet, and proper hydration. If diet and lifestyle changes don’t relieve constipation, a physician may recommend a laxative.
There are many types of laxatives and stool softeners, and while all are designed to promote bowel movements, they each act differently.
It’s important to talk to a physician to understand which laxative is best for your particular situation.
Stool softeners, such as docusate sodium, are typically the first course of action as they are considered safe and have few side effects.
Osmotic laxatives can also help relieve constipation through the absorption of fluid from the intestines into stool, bulking it up and helping to stimulate a bowel movement.
Lubricants, like mineral oil, help stool to move through the colon more easily.
Enemas can be used to treat impacted stool and relieve constipation. Each enema addresses different conditions and works differently in the body, so it’s important to consult a physician to know which one is right for your situation.
Stimulant laxatives, such as bisacodyl or sennosides, cause the intestines to contract and stimulate a bowel movement. Despite quicker results, stimulant laxatives come with many unpleasant side effects and should not be used on a regular basis as they can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.
How is Severe Constipation Treated?
For more severe, chronic constipation that doesn’t respond to any other treatment, your physician may recommend surgery. Surgery may also be needed with anorectal blockage caused by rectal prolapse.
Surgery can involve removing part, or all, of the colon. Surgery to remove the entire colon is rarely necessary.
“When you are constipated, finding relief is the first thing on your mind. Laxatives can help evacuate the bowel and clear constipation. There are a lot of different products available and understanding which one is right for you can be confusing and overwhelming.”
- AMY POWERS, ENEMEEZ®
Frequently Asked Questions about Constipation
When is Constipation an Emergency?
Constipation is rarely an emergency situation. If you are experiencing major, debilitating abdominal pain, have blood in your stool, and haven’t had a bowel movement for a prolonged period of time, your physician may recommend a trip to the emergency room.
How Can I Relieve Constipation Quickly?
Anyone who has experienced the discomfort of constipation knows the importance of finding relief. When it comes to constipation, however, think about the speed and quality of relieving discomfort. While some laxatives may work more quickly than others, you may be trading one discomfort for another. Stimulant laxatives, for example, may be effective in relieving constipation quickly but can come with other unpleasant side effects such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. A physician can provide the safest option to relieve constipation as quickly as possible.
What Does Constipation Feel Like?
Constipation may feel like a fullness, or heaviness, in your lower bowel or abdomen. You may feel bloating and cramping, which is often uncomfortable and even painful. You may feel like you have to have a bowel movement, but when you try to ‘go’, nothing happens.
What Foods Cause Constipation?
Foods that are high in sodium, fat, sugar, and/or processed food can increase the risk of constipation, such as prepared and fast foods. Dairy products and protein (like red meat) can slow digestion and increase the risk of constipation. Diuretic fluids like some juices, soda, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol increase dehydration which can also promote constipation.
The ENEMEEZ® and ENEMEEZ® Plus Advantage
The ENEMEEZ® mini-enema delivers 283mg of docusate sodium and functions as a stool-softening, hyperosmotic laxative by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, softening the stool and promoting a bowel movement.
ENEMEEZ® and ENEMEEZ® Plus are popular choices due to the fast, predictable results (typically in 2-15 minutes), non-irritating formula, and flexible tip for ease of use.
ENEMEEZ® Plus has the same active ingredients but contains an additional 20mg of benzocaine, assisting in the anesthetization of the rectum and lower bowel. The formulation was developed for patients who experience hemorrhoids, fissures, or painful bowel movements.
Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Quest products, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2020 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Quest products, LLC.