Constipation (Home Remedies and Medications for Relief)

  • Medical Author:
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick Guide19 Constipation Myths and Facts

19 Constipation Myths and Facts

What causes constipation?

Theoretically, constipation can be caused by the slow passage of digesting food through any part of the digestive system. Most of the time, however, the slowing occurs in the colon

Medications that cause constipation

A frequently over-looked cause of this problem are medications. The most common offending drugs include:

In addition to the products listed above, there are many others that can cause the condition. You can use effective simple measures to treat it (for example, increasing dietary fiber) if it is caused by a medication. Discontinuing it may not be not necessary. If simple measures don't work, it may be possible to substitute a less constipating medication. For example, a nonsteroidal ant-inflammatory drug or NSAIDs (for example, ibuprofen) or one of the newer and less constipating antidepressants.

Other causes of constipation

Habit: Bowel movements are under voluntary control. This means that the normal urge you feel when you need to have one can be suppressed. Although occasionally it is appropriate to suppress an urge to defecate (for example, when a bathroom is not available), doing this too frequently can lead to a disappearance of urges and result in constipation.

Diet: Fiber is important in maintaining a soft, bulky stool; therefore eating foods low in fiber can cause constipation. The best natural sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Laxatives: One suspected cause of severe constipation is the over-use of stimulant laxatives (senna [Senokot], castor oil, and many herbs). An association has been shown between the chronic use of these products and damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon, possibly resulting in the condition. It is not clear, however, whether the products have caused the damage or whether the damage existed prior to the use of them. Nevertheless, because of the possibility that stimulant products can damage the colon, most experts recommend that they be used as a last resort after non-stimulant products have failed.

Hormonal disorders: Hormones can affect bowel movements. For example:

  • Too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) and too much parathyroid hormone (by raising the calcium levels in the blood).
  • At the time of a woman's menstrual periods, estrogen and progesterone levels are high. However, this is rarely a prolonged condition.
  • High levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy.
Reviewed on 3/27/2017
References
REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Constipation."
<https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation>

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation.
<https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/eating-diet-nutrition> IMAGES:

1.Getty Images

2.iStock

3.Getty Images

4.iStock

5.iStock

6.iStock

7.Getty Images

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors