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Having difficulty of passing stool? Or maybe you have stool that is dry, hard, and painful passing of stool? If your answer to this is yes, you are probably experiencing constipation.

Fact is, constipation is one of the leading gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for 2.5 million physician visits a year.

Constipation, according to the National Institute of Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. A person with constipation usually has stools that are dry, hard, small in size, and difficult to pass.

What causes constipation?

Common causes of constipation are:

  • Not eating enough fibers
  • Physical inactivity (especially in the elderly)
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Certain medications, and
  • Dehydration

Sometimes, constipation may be caused by other health problems or conditions, such as stroke, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), problems in the colon, and even pregnancy. Abuse of laxatives may also cause the condition.

Normally, some of the water contents of stool are absorbed by the large intestine or the colon. However, constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or the colon’s muscle contraction is too slow, which causes the stool to move very slowly. This can cause stools to become hard and dry.

What are the available treatments for constipation?

Most cases of constipation last for only a short time and usually is not serious. Sometimes, treating the underlying cause can make the constipation go away. Laxatives are not advisable for everyone. The doctor may recommend laxative for cases where constipation that do not improve. However, laxatives are recommended for a limited time only.

To prevent constipation, experts recommend eating foods high in fiber, drinking enough fluids, visiting the restroom when the urge to have a bowel movement is felt, and exercising regularly.

Suggested Readings:

View all Digestive Diseases Topics

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). What I need to know about Constipation ( Retrieved November 7, 2009

Page Last Revised: June 26, 2012

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