Constipation in Adults (cont.)
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What are the causes of constipation in adults?
Constipation may result from several causes including a poor diet, poor bowel habits, or problems in elimination of stool, whether physical, functional, or voluntary.
The most common causes of constipation are:
Poor diet: Eating foods rich in animal fats (dairy products, meats, and eggs) or refined sugar but low in fiber (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables).
Inadequate fluid intake: Not drinking enough water can lead to hard dry stools. Fluid is absorbed in the intestine, and people who don't drink enough water may not pass enough water into the colon to keep their stools soft.
Caffeine and alcohol: These induce increased urination of water. This leads to (relative) dehydration because of an increase in water absorption from the intestine. This can in turn lead to constipation when not enough fluid is retained in the stool.
Poor bowel habits: Ignoring the desire to have bowel movements may initiate a cycle of constipation.
Medications: Many medications can cause constipation.
Travel: Changes in lifestyle, low fluid intake, and eating fast food may cause constipation.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, spastic colon): Because of changes in the bowel function, if a person has this disorder, he or she may have crampy abdominal pain, excessive gas, bloating, and constipation, sometimes alternating with diarrhea.
Laxative abuse: Habitually using laxatives will gradually produce dependency on these drugs.
Pregnancy: Constipation is common during pregnancy and may be due to several factors. Some of the following conditions produce severe pain on defecation, which may trigger a reflex spasm of the anal sphincter muscle. The spasm may delay bowel movement and decrease the desire for bowel opening in order to avoid the anal pain.
Intestinal obstruction: Mechanical compression and interference with the normal functions of the bowel may occur in the following conditions:
Mechanical problems of the anus and rectum (the bottom part of the colon) that includes the rectum pushing out of the anus (rectal prolapse) or into the vagina.
Damage to nerves within the intestine: (Spinal cord tumors, multiple sclerosis, or spinal cord injuries may produce constipation by interfering with the function of the nerves supplying the intestine.)
Connective tissue diseases: Conditions such as scleroderma and lupus
Poor-functioning of the thyroid gland: Reduced production of thyroxin, a hormone produced by the thyroid gland, hypothyroidism can cause constipation.
Lead poisoning and other metabolic disorders
Age: Older adults are more likely to have constipation for the following reasons:
It should be noted that although that this is a long list of possibly scary causes of constipation, most chronic constipation is simply from inadequate intake of dietary fiber and water, and can be managed by substantially increasing the intake of both.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2014
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