Constipation is a symptom not a disease. Like a fever, constipation can be caused by many different conditions. Most people have experienced a brief bout of constipation that has corrected itself with diet and time.1
The following is a list of some of the most common causes of constipation.1,2
Poor diet 1
Not eating enough fibre, such as fruit vegetables and cereal may enhance the chance of getting constipation, as well as not drinking enough fluids.2
Lack of physical exercise2
Older adults are morely likely to report problems with constipation. This is due to poor diet, lack of exercise, insufficient fluid intake, poor bowel habits and use of certain drugs.
Pregnancy is also a risk factor since there is restricted physical activity and the womb compresses intestines.1
Prolonged bedrest and lack of exercise can contribute to constipation.1
Anxiety or depression2
Anxiety or depression may slow down bowel mobility and suppress the need to go to the bathroom.2
Travel, change in routine, lifestyle or eating habits 1,2 People often experience constipation when travelling long distances, which may relate to changes in lifestyle, schedule, diet and drinking water. 1
Poor bowel habits1
Ignoring the urge to pass stools1 is a common cause of constipation.
Side-effects of certain medications2
Certain over-the-counter medicines may cause constipation as a side-effect e.g. analgesics containing codeine, iron and calcium supplements.3
Constipation does not occur overnight. Doctors agree that prevention is the best approach to constipation. For most people, dietary and lifestyle improvements can lessen the chances of constipation.1
1: South African Gastroenterology Society (SAGES). Constipation. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.sages.co.za/patients/constipation (Accessed October 2018)
2: NHSinform. Constipation. [Internet]. 2018. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/constipation (Accessed 18 October 2018).
3: Sibanda M, Meyer JC, et al. Chronic constipation in adults. S Afr Pharm J. 2018;85(1):34-42.