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Constipation in Adults (cont.)

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 following are some of the most common causes of constipation.

Constipation and Diet

  • 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 excretion and thus 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.

Constipation and Poor Bowel Habits

Ignoring the desire to have bowel movements may initiate a cycle of constipation.

  • After a period of time, the person may stop feeling the desire to move the bowels.
  • This leads to progressive constipation. For example, some people may avoid using public toilets or ignore going to the toilet because they are busy.

Medications That Cause Constipation

Many medications can cause constipation.

Laxative abuse

Habitually using laxatives will gradually produce dependency on these drugs.

  • The person may eventually require increasing amounts of laxatives to move the bowels.
  • In some instances, the bowel will become insensitive to laxatives and the person will not be able to move the bowels even with laxatives.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015

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