A common gastroenterological condition, constipation is often described as an unpleasant sensation and is one experienced by 1 in 10 children and up to 1 in 5 adults in Australia. A condition increasing in frequency with age, the causes of constipation vary greatly and can even be caused as a result of medication.

While treating this condition is not too complicated for gastroenterology specialists with experience, understanding its causes helps you become more aware of lifestyle and dietary habits that may prevent you from experiencing it.

This blog post dives into the causes of constipation and the types of treatment you can receive to enjoy regular and healthy bowel movements.

The most common causes of constipation include:

Lifestyle factors

One of the leading causes of constipation includes lifestyle factors like not drinking enough water, maintaining a low-fibre diet, lacking regular exercises, pregnancy, not going to the toilet whenever the urge arises, and even certain types of medication.

Another factor that could trigger constipation involves a change in your routine, especially in terms of your bowel movements. This is common among travellers and people who work in shifts.

Issues with certain parts of the digestive system

When it comes to constipation, the colon and the rectum play a very decisive role. Blockages in either of these parts of the body can slow down bowel movements.

The blockages, themselves, can be caused by factors like colon, abdominal, and rectal cancer, anal fissures, rectum bulges, and other neurological problems that target the nerves in the colon and rectum, which play a role in bowel movements.

In terms of neurological problems, these include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and spinal cord injuries.

Hormonal changes in the body

Another one of the leading causes of constipation includes hormonal imbalance, which can be caused by conditions like diabetes, an overactive parathyroid gland, an underactive thyroid or even pregnancy.

Other medical causes of constipation

Medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, hernias, tumours, issues relating to the endocrine system, and diseases relating to the central nervous system can also cause constipation.

Certain surgeries, like abdominal or gynecological surgeries, pre-operative pain and certain analgesics may also be causal factors. In addition to this, obstruction - which is where the rectum or anus is
obstructed by haemorrhoids or even a rectal prolapse - can lead to difficulty in passing bowels.

Treatment for constipation

Treatment will be commenced once the cause of constipation has been identified via blood test, stool test and colonoscopy. Some of the primary ways to treat constipation includes taking laxatives, enemas, and stool softeners, especially for the removal of impacted faeces.

You may also need to make certain changes to your diet, especially if you’re not getting enough of fibre. In this process, make sure you incorporate fibre gradually and that your intake is tailored to your specific requirements. Speaking to a dietician may help you settle on the right quantity.

If you’re unable to include more fibre in your diet, organically, fibre supplements may be recommended by your doctor. Hydration is equally important as fluids may soften faeces. Certain beverages like alcohol, tea, and coffee may need to be restricted, however.

In addition to these and alongside the treatment of the underlying condition causing constipation, exercise is also known to provide effective relief against the inability to experience bowel movements. It is recommended that you exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day.

Identify causes of constipation and receive treatment from an experienced medical professional

Constipation can cause severe discomfort and disruption to your day-to-day life. Given that this condition can be caused easily, however, you may experience it several times across your lifetime.

In order to enjoy effective relief and frequent bowel movements, identifying the causes of constipation is highly important. By consulting a medical professional with experience in this area, this is a more reliable and accurate process.

For further information on the causes of constipation and their treatment, speak to Dr Suhirdan Vivekanandarajah, an interventional gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney.

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