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Constipation – Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Types, and More

Constipation Definition

Constipation is a symptom rather than a disease. This term uses to designate both the infrequency of defecation and the difficulty in expelling the stool.

The frequency of pooping considered normal ranges from a maximum of three bowel movements a day to a minimum of three bowel movements a week.

But this criterion is not enough to establish the diagnosis of Constipation. At present, several measures are taken into account to select whether a person has Constipation.

If it is necessary to exert excessive effort, the stool is hard or goat, a sensation of complete evacuation not achieve, the frequency of pooping less than three weekly times.

What are the Causes of Constipation?


The common cause of Constipation is dietary factors, especially a lack of fibre in the diet. Constipation is related to different diseases suffered by the person and is a frequent symptom in patients with diabetes and thyroid diseases, among other pathologies.

Some medications used to treat pain, depression, and some heart conditions can also cause Constipation. If along with Constipation, there is pain, blood appears in the stool, or the patient has lost weight, the cause may be a tumour in the intestine.

Among the physiological causes are:

1. Intestinal Hypomotility

The intestine muscles are not strong enough to perform the necessary contractions to expel stool. Spasms or involuntary contractions appear in a part of the intestine that retains the seat, preventing a correct evacuation.

2. Rectal Problems

The rectum muscles do not produce enough reflex for normal defecation or local lesions that cause pain.

3. A weakness of the Abdominal Wall Muscles

There is not enough pressure to evacuate.

4. Mechanical Obstruction of the Colon or Rectum

There are intrinsic or extrinsic injuries to the large intestine or anus.

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?


The symptoms vary depending on each patient, whether occasional or chronic Constipation and the underlying pathologies. The most common symptoms are bowel movements less than three times a week.

  • Hard stools,
  • And also, Gas presence,
  • Need to exert great effort,
  • Pain when defecating, need for manual manoeuvres to facilitate defecation,
  • The sensation of anorectal obstruction,
  • A sensation of incomplete evacuation and
  • And also, Anorectal obstruction sensation.

What are the Types of Constipation?


We can classify Constipation in:

1. Acute or Occasional Constipation

  • The duration is less than six weeks, a trip, diet changes, lack of exercise, and taking medicine due to a stressful situation, when this cause disappears, resume a normal rhythm.

2. Chronic or Habitual Constipation

  • It lasts for at least 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive during the previous 12 months).
  • In these cases, a diagnosis must establish to rule out that a disease causes to adopt healthy habits that restore defecation’s normal rhythm.

Prevalence of Constipation

  1. Constipation is one of the common chronic digestive disorders. Its frequency may vary depending on the concept of Constipation used. Suppose only the number of bowel movements per week take into account.
  2. It affects approximately 5% of the population. If the criteria broaden and the difficulty or effort takes account defecating, the prevalence rises to 20-30%.
  3. This problem is more common in women, sedentary people, and those who follow a diet low in fluids and fibre (present in fruits and vegetables).

Prevention of Constipation

The best way to prevent Constipation is to lead a healthy lifestyle with a diet rich in fibre, such as the Mediterranean.

It’s to drink plenty of fluids, approximately two litres of water a day, exercise regularly, and accustom your body to going to the bathroom when you feel defecating instead of waiting.

To ensure a sufficient intake of fibre, the Spanish Foundation for the Digestive System (FEAD) recommends taking at least daily:

Two Servings of Greens and Vegetable

  • And also, take mixed vegetable salad or a plate of cooked vegetables, either as elaborate dishes or a garnish.

 3 Pieces of Fruit

  • Take a medium piece, a cup of strawberries or cherries, two slices of melon.
  • And also, preferably whole instead of in juice, the fibre is mostly in the pulp and the skin.

 4-6 Servings of Cereals and Derivatives

  • Preferably whole grain or enriched with wheat bran.
  • It also recommends taking 2 to 5 weekly servings of legumes, which are also an excellent fibre source.

Diagnosis of Constipation

After knowing the dietary habits, taking drugs, and other diseases, it should be the doctor who determines what studies are necessary to do.

These are the aspects that can provide essential information for diagnosis:

  • Age of the patient.
  • Coexistence of certain diseases.
  • And also, Drugs.
  • Its description of the guiding symptom, the one that predominates in each case.
  • The existence of alarm symptoms may require additional tests.

In addition to formulating the necessary questions to collect all the information above, the doctor will carry out a physical examination to obtain signs suggestive of a relevant disease.

It may also be necessary to perform an elemental or advanced blood test, depending on the specialist’s estimate.

Additional tests are necessary to rule out structural injuries, such as a plain or abdominal X-ray in some patients. Specific examinations to assess the motor function of the colon may also indicate.

Treatments of Constipation


The treatment of Constipation depends fundamentally on the cause that produces it. Most of the time, adding fibre to the diet will suffice.

If it is related to taking drugs and can be changed for others, it will be advisable to do so. Other times it may be necessary to resort to surgery.

These are the main therapeutic measures available, which will be used depending on the symptoms, underlying pathologies, and other characteristics of the patient:

1. Education

  • A brief explanation of the physiology of defecation can be beneficial to the affected person. It is also essential to encourage the practice of physical exercise, the intake of much fluids.
  • We are adopting a regular schedule for defecation, the importance of increasing the fibre content in the diet, and the harm of suppressing the urge to poop frequently.

2. Dietary Fiber Supplements

  • An increase of 15-20 grams of fibre per day is enough to increase the volume of stools, decrease their consistency, and reduce colonic transit time.

3. Laxatives

  • Laxatives are still the most widely used remedy for treating Constipation.
  • There are different types: bulking agents (mucilages), osmotic laxatives, contact laxatives, emollient agents, rectal preparations.
  • The healthcare professional will determine when they are necessary and which is the most appropriate for each case.

4. Surgery

  • Surgery considers the last resort for the treatment of Chronic Constipation.
  • And also, surgical options include various techniques whose results are not always definitive.

5. Other Data

  • Constipation represents a widespread reason for consultation at any age. Anyone can have seasons of Constipation, especially coinciding with changes in diet or travel.
  • And also, elderly or inactive people have this disorder more often.


Many cases of Constipation are mild and easily treated with changes in diet and exercise.

If you’re experiencing chronic Constipation along with other bowel changes, you must talk to your doctor.


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