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What causes constipation

Constipation is when you pass stools less frequently than normal or cannot completely empty your bowel. This usually occurs when faeces remain in the colon for too long, causing stools to become hard, dry and more difficult to pass. You can have a healthy lifestyle and still suffer from constipation. A high-fibre diet, daily exercise, and staying hydrated helps but does not guarantee against occasional constipation. Even from childhood some people just seem to be more susceptible than others. There's really no need to feel you've brought constipation on yourself.

However, certain things make constipation more likely:

  • Diet - Dietary fibre provides the bulk that helps to speed the passage of waste food through the bowel. Lack of fibre results in harder, more compact stools, which take longer to pass through.
  • Lack of fluids - Everyone is different but the body can need up to 2 litres a day to function efficiently. Without sufficient fluids, waste matter dries out, making it harder to move through the bowel.
  • Lack of exercise - If you don't exercise often, things can slow down including the muscle contractions that move waste matter through the bowel.
  • Pregnancy - Hormonal and physical changes are possible causes.
  • Menopause and menstruation - Hormonal and lifestyle changes at these times can cause constipation.
  • Stress - Constipation can be caused by stress.
  • Ageing - A lot of bodily functions slow down with age and the digestive system is just one of them.
  • Ignoring the urge to pass stools can also cause constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers often have constipation, sometimes alternating with diarrhoea. In IBS, cramping pains and discomfort in the bowel and rectum are common.
  • Holiday constipation is quite common. Any change of routine or diet can cause constipation.

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