About Constipation

If you have constipation, you are not alone. Constipation is one of the most common bowel problems with over half of us experiencing it at some time in our lives. In fact, as many as 1 in 5 people say they have suffered from chronic (long-term) constipation. That’s why we have used our expertise to develop an innovative treatment for patients who have found that standard treatments for constipation do not work well for them.

Definition

Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, hard or lumpy stools, straining to empty your bowel, a feeling that you are unable to empty your bowel completely or that there is something blocking your bowel. You may experience one or more of these symptoms.

Causes

There are many possible causes of constipation. The most common are not enough fibre in the diet and lack of physical activity. Other frequent causes are changes in life or routine, such as pregnancy, aging, and travel; overuse of laxatives; ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement and not drinking enough fluids. Certain diseases or conditions, such as stroke (most common), irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes may affect the way your bowels function. Some drugs can also cause constipation. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of constipation can vary:

  • Having less than three bowel movements a week
  • Having difficulty emptying your bowels without straining
  • A feeling that you are unable to completely empty your bowel
  • A feeling that there is something blocking your bowel.

You might also experience:

  • Wind or gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pains or cramps.

You might have bladder control problems or faecal incontinence as well as constipation.

Risk Factors

Constipation affects all age groups and both men and women. Anything that slows down the speed of food through your gut may increase your chances of becoming constipated. For example:

  • A low fibre diet
  • A lack of exercise
  • Certain drugs (pain medications, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines, antispasmodics, anticonvulsants and aluminium antacids)
  • Pregnancy and childbirth.

Diabetes and neurological disorders are high risk factors for chronic constipation.

Diagnosis

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how they are affecting your day-to-day living. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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