Constipation - Causes

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If known, what is the cause of or reason for your constipation? Have you found a remedy?

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Other causes of constipation

Habit

Bowel movements are under voluntary control. This means that the normal urge people feel when they need to have a bowel movement 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. Diets that are low in fiber can, therefore, 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 stimulant laxatives and damage to the nerves and muscles of the colon, possibly resulting in constipation. It is not clear, however, whether the laxatives have caused the damage or whether the damage existed prior to the use of laxatives. Nevertheless, because of the possibility that stimulant laxatives can damage the colon, most experts recommend that stimulant laxatives be used as a last resort after non-stimulant treatments 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) can cause constipation.
  • At the time of a woman's menstrual periods, estrogen and progesterone levels are high and may cause constipation. However, this is rarely a prolonged problem.
  • High levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy also can cause constipation.

Diseases that affect the colon

There are many diseases that can affect the function of the muscles and/or nerves of the colon. These include diabetes, scleroderma, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, Hirschsprung's disease, and Chagas disease. Cancer or narrowing (stricture) of the colon that blocks the colon can decrease the flow of stool.

Central nervous system diseases

Some diseases of the brain and spinal cord may cause constipation, including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries.

Colonic inertia

Colonic inertia is a condition in which the nerves or muscles of the colon do not work normally. As a result, the contents of the colon are not propelled through the colon normally. The cause of colonic inertia is unclear. In some cases, the muscles or nerves of the colon are diseased. Colonic inertia also may be the result of the chronic use of stimulant laxatives. In most cases, however, there is no clear cause for constipation.

Pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction (also known as outlet obstruction or outlet delay) refers to a condition in which the muscles of the lower pelvis that surround the rectum (the pelvic floor muscles) do not work normally. These muscles are critical for defecation (bowel movement). It is not known why these muscles fail to work properly in some people, but they can make the passage of stools difficult even when everything else is normal.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: b, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: January 02

My constipation is caused by narcotics. I've been a pain patient for nearly 15 years, and I've gotten to the point that I don't know what else to try. The last were the Relistor injections. All it did was 'not' help me go and did make me so sick I had to go to the emergency room and stop the shots. Lately, even magnesium citrate hasn't caused a bowel movement and it always used to work. I'm left at grasping for straws. There have to be millions of people like me, pain patients for one reason or another who cannot find any relief.

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Comment from: colleen, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 13

I have been constipated most of my life. I had a total hysterectomy in February this year. My bowels got worse. I am on Bisacodyl and it works but I don`t want to be on a pill to do something as natural as having a bowel movement! I leave carbs alone because I lost 30 lb. and don`t want to gain it back so fruits, other than berries are out. Fiber is full of carbs, too. I drink plenty of water. I was told by my doctor that the leading reason for constipation is not taking the time out to go! Bowel movements are voluntary so sit relax, it is worth it! I am looking for a natural laxative. I will try what has been suggested on this site and let you all know when I have succeeded!

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