Constipation is a condition in which a person has difficulty evacuating stools, resulting in infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools. It is caused by a variety of factors, including a change in routine, lack of fiber in the diet, lack of fluids, and lack of exercise. The most common causes of constipation are not eating enough fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and grains; a change in lifestyle or routine; limited privacy when using the bathroom; and ignoring the urge to defecate. Chronic constipation is defined as infrequent bowel movements or difficulty evacuating stools that persists for several weeks or longer.
This is caused by the colon absorbing too much water, resulting in hard, dry stools. Normally, as food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming stools. Then, muscle contractions push the stool into the rectum, and by the time it reaches the rectum, most of the water has been absorbed. Certain medications can also cause constipation as a side effect.
These include aluminum-containing antacids, antispasmodics, antidepressants, tranquilizers and sedatives, bismuth salts, iron supplements, diuretics, anticholinergics, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants. Home remedies and lifestyle changes can often resolve constipation. However, if these do not work it is important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Overtreating constipation with laxatives instead of seeing a doctor should be avoided.
Some studies have found that people who are physically fit are less likely to experience constipation than others.