What Is Constipation?
Someone might have constipation if they:
• have fewer than three bowel movements (BMs) in a week
• have trouble having a bowel movement
• have stool (poop) that’s hard, dry, and unusually large
Constipation is a very common problem. It usually isn’t a cause for concern. Healthy eating and exercise habits can help prevent it.
Reasons why people get constipated include:
• Unhealthy diet. Constipation can be due to a diet that doesn’t include enough water and fiber, both of which help the bowels move as they should.
People who eat lots of processed foods, cheeses, white bread and bagels, and meats may find they’re constipated often. A healthier diet that includes high-fiber foods (like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) can keep the stool from getting hard and dry.
• Not enough exercise. Moving around helps food move through the digestive system. So not getting enough physical activity can contribute to constipation.
• Stress. People can get constipated when they’re anxious about something, like a life change or a problem at home. Stress can affect how the digestive system works and can cause constipation, as well as other conditions, like diarrhea.
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A person with IBS may have either constipation or diarrhea, as well as stomach pain and gas.
• Ignoring the natural urge. Avoiding going to the bathroom, even when you really have the urge to go, can cause constipation. When you ignore the urge to go, it can be harder to go later on.
• Some medicines. Sometimes, medicines like antidepressants and those used to treat iron deficiencies can lead to constipation.
In rare cases, constipation is a sign of other medical illnesses. Call your doctor if you continue to have problems, or if the constipation lasts for 2 to 3 weeks.