Chronic Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies

Table of Contents

Chronic Constipation

Table of Contents

At one point in your life, you must have wondered at least once: Why am I constipated? You might blame chronic constipation on one thing but let us tell you that the condition is due to several causes that you might overlook in your daily life. It would have been easy to blame the cause of chronic constipation on one thing but your bowel irregularity is due to multiple causes. Read on to find out more about chronic constipation, its causes, symptoms, and remedy methods.

Chronic Constipation: Causes Including Diet and Lifestyle

You are constipated because your gut is in sharp disagreement with your lifestyle. The lack of physical activity and poor diet are the main causes of constipation so rule these out before you look into other grievous causes. We have brought to you some lifestyle and diet-related factors that may be causing you chronic constipation:

  • Too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Lack of water or fluids in the system
  • Lack of high-fiber food
  • Too much processed food (high in sugar and fat)
  • Too much of dairy and meat products
  • Ignoring bathroom trips

These lifestyle faults must be changed if you notice them in you and typically you should be getting a positive result. Here’s what you could do:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Whenever you have the urge for a bathroom trip, go for it.
  • Make yourself physically active for at least 30 minutes every day (just go for a long walk).
  • Have a tall glass of water every day with a fiber supplement.
  • Fill your daily diet plan with fiber-rich food items such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

What are The Underlying Conditions of Chronic Constipation?

Constipation is majorly caused by poor lifestyle choices and once you have tried whatever changes we have discussed above with no positive results, it might be a good idea to visit a doctor. You might be having something serious going on with your body.

The conditions discussed below might not be necessarily seen in all patients with chronic constipation but get some diagnosis done to rule these conditions out. Especially, if you experience symptoms like,

  • Vision issues
  • Weight changes
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue

Chronic Constipation: Conditions That May Be Its Cause

Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

The thyroid, a small gland in your neck, sometimes does not produce enough hormones which affect your body’s metabolism. A slower metabolism will slow down your entire digestive system and lead to constipation. This condition is called hypothyroidism and its symptoms develop over time. It can be treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxine).

If you have an underactive thyroid, constipation will be a symptom, along with these other signs:

  • Puffy face
  • Impaired memory
  • Brittle fingernails
  • Thinning hair
  • Irregular menstruation (for women)
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • High sensitivity to cold
  • Fatigue

A thyroid function test will assess the functionality of the thyroid and if found with hypothyroidism, you will have to go through several more tests. Other conditions that cause hypothyroidism are:

  • Thyroid surgery
  • Cancer
  • Certain medicine such as lithium
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Pregnancy
  • Pituitary disorders
  • Congenital diseases
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease)

Diabetes

Diabetes is a health condition that develops when your body does not produce enough insulin. It is a hormone that the body needs to break down your blood sugar. Type 1 and 2 diabetes means you have high blood sugar which damages nerves (diabetic neuropathy). If the nerves in the digestive tract get damaged, your guts will get constipated. Along with that, here are some other signs of diabetes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination (socially nighttime)
  • Being thirsty all the time

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a health condition whose exact cause is not yet known but its symptoms include constipation. It is thought to be a misfire in communication between your guts and your rain. Here are some other symptoms of IBS, apart from constipation:

  • Passing mucus
  • Occasional diarrhea
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramping and pain

Anxiety

Anxiety or stress will cause your body to go into a state of “fight or flight” which turns on your sympathetic nervous system. Under such a situation, your digestion stops and you get constipated. Sometimes called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), anxiety can take a heavy toll on your digestive process. It can be treated with psychological counseling, therapy, or medication. Other symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive worry

Depression

Depressed people might stay in bed all day which means a lack of physical exercise and constipation. Their diet also might change as they typically end up eating a lot of fat or sugar. On the other hand, some depressed people do not eat at all and such drastic lifestyle changes will lead to constipation. Psychological counseling and medications will help people dealing with depression. Here are some other symptoms of depression:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of interest
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A feeling of despair, hopelessness, or worthlessness

Other Conditions

Any misfiring of your nervous system or brain can also affect your intestinal nerves leading to chronic constipation. Also, if anything like a tumor blocks your bowel, you could have constipation too. Some other conditions that cause constipation are:

  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Bowel cancer
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Parkinson’s disease (damage to the brain)
  • Multiple sclerosis (a fault in the central nervous system)
  • Hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood)

Pregnancy

At least 2 in 5 women have experienced constipation during their pregnancy. While pregnant, the hormone progesterone is high in the body making the intestinal muscles contract. Without harming your baby, you can easily treat constipation if you consult your doctor.

Medications

The cause of chronic constipation need not necessarily be medical conditions, it could be caused by medications that are used to treat those conditions. The following medicines are known culprits of constipation:

  • Antidiarrheal agents
  • Iron supplements for treating anemia
  • Calcium supplements
  • Antacids for stomach codes (antacids that are high in calcium)
  • Diuretics (that help kidneys to remove fluids from the bloodstream)
  • Drugs for Parkinson’s diseases
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Drugs for epilepsy
  • Anticholinergic agents that treat muscle spasms
  • Calcium channel blockers for heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Opiate painkillers such as morphine and codeine

If you find any noticeable changes in the quality or frequency of your bowel movements after taking these medications, you need to address your doctor asap. They will adjust your medications and switch to a new one to manage chronic constipation.

The Bottom Line: What Should You Do if You Have Chronic Constipation?

Once you figure out that you have chronic constipation, try to make some positive changes in your lifestyle and diet. If they don’t seem to cure your condition, you need to visit your doctor to go through some diagnostic tests. Notice if you have any other symptoms like weight changes, thinning hair, or fatigue, and inform your doctor. Such extra symptoms will be a clue to hidden medical conditions.

Chronic constipation doesn’t necessarily mean you will always have medical conditions. Also, do not fret if you get diagnosed with one as proper medications will cure you fine. If you have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, make sure you book a therapist’s appointment.

Chronic Constipation FAQs

1. What are the treatment options for chronic constipation?

Before putting you under medication, your doctor will suggest some lifestyle changes such as,
  • More fiber in your daily diet
  • Drinking more water every day
  • Exercising
  • If these lifestyle changes don't work out, the doctor will recommend further treatments such as,
  • Pelvic muscle training
  • Medication (chloride channel activators, Guanylate cyclase-C agonists, Misoprostol, Col-Probenecid, Botox, etc.)
  • Fiber supplements
  • Stool softeners
  • Lubricants
  • Osmotics
  • Stimulants
  • If these lifestyle changes, as well as medications, do not seem to work on you, the next treatment in the line is surgery.

    2. What is the main cause of chronic constipation?

    Lack of physical activity and poor diet are most often the causes of chronic constipation. Before looking into other causes, it is always better to rule out these two. Here are some lifestyle factors that might be making you constipated without your knowledge:
  • Ignoring the urge to use the bathroom
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Not enough fluid intake
  • Lack of fiber-rich food
  • Heavily processed food diet
  • A heavy diet of dairy and meat products
  • 3. Can chronic constipation ever be cured?

    Chronic constipation is usually the result of drastic changes to OTC treatments and lifestyle rather than a result of an underlying condition. Get in touch with your doctor if general lifestyle changes do not cure your condition as they will be able to diagnose any underlying health issues.

    4. Are bananas good for constipation?

    Constipation can be cured with an increase in the intake of fiber-rich food such as bananas. Soluble fiber can absorb water which will help stool to stay soft and large. This in turn will help the stool to easily move through the digestive tract.

    5. What are the worst symptoms of chronic constipation?

    Constipation can be unpleasant but its chronic condition can even be painful. Here’s what you can look out for:
  • You might feel that your bowel isn't empty after a movement.
  • You might feel nauseous and bloated.
  • You might have stomach aches and cramps.
  • Your stool will be painful to pass.
  • Your stool will be lumpy, hard, and/or dry.
  • You will have fewer than 3 bowel movements per week.
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