Chronic constipation is a condition which causes a person to have difficult, infrequent, or incomplete bowel movements. Sometimes this can happen for a short amount of time, but the word ‘chronic’ means that the condition is long-term.
According to the Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience at UCLA, as many as 63 million people in North America meet the criteria for a chronic constipation diagnosis. In other words, about 10.8% of North Americans have chronic constipation, according to the 2016 population statistics. The risk of constipation increases with age and tends to be more common in women than men.
Chronic Constipation Causes
- Diet and lifestyle – Chronic constipation has a variety of causes, many of which can be treated with either lifestyle changes or medication. A common cause of constipation is a poor diet. Diets that are high in meat and dairy products and low in high-fiber foods can result in constipation. This is because fiber cannot be digested and instead, it absorbs water and forms the ‘bulk’ of feces. Fiber also softens your stool, allowing it to travel through the colon more quickly. For similar reasons, not drinking enough water can also lead to constipation. Click here to read more about how diet affects digestion.
- Underactive Thyroid – Sometimes, the cause of constipation is medical rather than dietary or lifestyle-related. An underactive thyroid can cause constipation due to not producing enough hormones responsible for a healthy metabolism. A slow metabolism means the slow processing of food, resulting in constipation. Weight gain, fatigue, sensitivity to cold temperatures, and irregular periods for women are signs of an underactive thyroid, as well as constipation.
- Mental health – Mental conditions such as depression and anxiety have been shown to cause constipation. Depression often causes decreased physical activity and sudden dietary changes, both of which are linked to constipation. Meanwhile, anxiety tends to disrupt the body’s digestive system due to excessive nervous system activity and the ‘fight or flight’ response. You should see a doctor or psychiatrist for depression if you feel hopeless, worthless, suicidal, lack energy, and lack interest in things. See a doctor or psychiatrist for anxiety if you experience excessive worry, nervousness, or panic attacks.
- Diabetes – Diabetes may cause constipation due to its damaging effect on the nerves which control the digestive tract. Symptoms of diabetes include being thirsty all the time, frequent urination, tiredness, weight loss, and blurry vision.
- Irritable bowel syndrome – Also known as IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome can cause many digestive problems. Although causes of it are not well understood, symptoms include constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, sudden diarrhea, and mucus in feces.
- Other causes – Sometimes more serious causes are behind constipation. A bowel obstruction, bowel cancer, and some nervous diseases/nerve damage can all cause constipation. In women, pregnancy can also be a cause. For these reasons, you should visit a doctor if you suspect you are constipated, especially if there is a sudden and severe change in bowel movements. To read more about the causes of chronic constipation, click here.
Featured Image: Depositphotos/© SIphotographyPosted on May 5, 2023