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Learn more about constipation including symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention

Causes

Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors including travel, changes in diet, or fluid intake. Disease, disability, hospital stays, and medicine – including prescription and over-the-counter medications – can all cause constipation as well.1,2

WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION

Inadequate Diet

Often constipation is simply the result of "not enough": not drinking enough fluids, not including enough fiber in our diet. Other times, constipation is the result of just "too much": too much intake of unhealthy or processed foods.

Medication

Many people are unaware that constipation is also associated with many prescription and over-the-counter drugs (View list now).

Ignoring Bowel Movements

If you ignore the urge to have a bowel movement over time, you may stop feeling the need to have one. You may delay having a bowel movement because you do not want to use toilets outside of your home, do not have access to a toilet, or may feel you are too busy. This habit can lead to constipation.

WHO GETS CONSTIPATED?

Constipation can affect anyone, at any age. About 42 million people say they have issues with constipation. Constipation affects almost everyone at some point in their lives.1

So if you're an occasional sufferer you're certainly not alone. And the good news is, no matter what your age or situation, you can do something to help avoid and ease your constipation.

New Mothers

Following childbirth, many women experience constipation due to a slowdown of the digestive system and a temporary reduction of muscle tone in the abdomen. In addition, discomfort from surgical incisions may require pain medicines, some of which can cause constipation.

Travelers

No matter what your age or physical condition, business or vacation travel can disrupt your regular eating, sleeping, and normal bowel routines. The search for a toilet in an unfamiliar place can cause you to postpone the urge to go to the bathroom. When packing for a trip, be sure to take along a laxative just in case you develop a temporary problem with constipation.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Along with all the other benefits of exercise, add one more: it can help you avoid constipation. Sedentary people are simply more prone to problems with constipation than the physically active. Since exercise is so important, ask your doctor to recommend a fitness routine that suits your needs.

Patients Taking Certain Medications

Constipation may be associated with many prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Patients Recovering From Surgery

New medications or inadequate physical activity are both factors that contribute to constipation after surgery. Your physician may recommend a laxative if you are recovering from surgery and having problems with constipation.

Medication Associated With Constipation

Many prescription and commonly used, over-the-counter medications can disrupt your digestive system. Medications associated with constipation include antacids, antidepressants, opioid-containing cough medicines, cold medicines, anti-Parkinson's medications, and pain relievers. Some medications used to treat anemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and various cardiovascular conditions can also be associated with constipation.

Sometimes constipation is just a short-term problem that occurs as your body adjusts to a new medication. In other instances, constipation is a side effect that may not lessen over time.

Do not use laxative products for longer than one week unless directed by a doctor.


MEDICATIONS THAT MAY CAUSE CONSTIPATION1,2

PAIN MEDICATIONS

Buprenorphine
Codeine
Hydrocodone
Hydromorphone
Methadone
Morphine
Oxycodone
Oxymorphone
Tramadol
Fentanyl

ANTIDEPRESSANTS/ANTI-ANXIETY

Amitriptyline
Doxepin HCl

ANTI-HYPERTENSIVES

Clonidine
Clonidine/Chlorthalidone

ANTI-PARKINSON'S AGENTS

Bromocriptine

CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING AGENTS

Cholestyramine

IRON SUPPLEMENTS

Ferrous gluconate
Ferrous sulfate

DUODENAL ULCER

Sucralfate

OPIOID-CONTAINING COUGH MEDICINES

Hydrocodone/Chlorpheniramine polistirex
Hydrocodone bitartrate/
Homatropine methyl bromide

*List is not all-inclusive


References:

  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Constipation. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation. Accessed July, 2017.
  2. Branch, RL, Butt TF. Drug-induced constipation. Adverse Drug Reaction Bulletin; 2009: 257: 987-990.