Chronic constipation affects about 15-20% of people in the United States. This long-term condition causes you to have infrequent bowel movements that cause excessive straining.

At Imperial Digestive Health Specialists, board-certified Oforbuike Ewelukwa, MD, MSc, and our team of constipation specialists have the expertise and experience to diagnose and treat this frustrating issue.

Here’s some helpful info on the causes of chronic constipation and what you can do about it.

Understanding constipation

The main organs that help move food through your body are your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. As the food material passes through your digestive tract, the muscles in your pelvic floor work with your intestines to push stool out of your rectum.

Constipation happens when you have slow-moving or hard stools, or when the muscles and nerves that push your bowel movement out don’t work efficiently.

Who is at risk?

Chronic constipation mostly affects you if you’re:

  • Female
  • Over age 65
  • Not physically active
  • Disabled and confined to a bed
  • Pregnant

If you have a poor diet, you can also be at risk.

Causes of chronic constipation

Chronic constipation can develop from a poor diet, certain health conditions, or medications you take. Several causes include:

  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Metabolic problems
  • Narrowing of your colon
  • Neurological issues
  • Bowel diseases

In some cases, you might experience chronic constipation without a known cause, which is called chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC).

Understanding the difference between acute and chronic constipation

Acute and chronic constipation have the same symptoms, which might mean you have difficulty with bowel movements, small or hard stools, bloating, or a feeling that you haven’t fully emptied your bowels.

The difference is how long the constipation lasts: 

  • Acute constipation only lasts a few days, can occur when you change your schedule or diet, and can be relieved with over-the-counter laxatives, a high-fiber diet, or exercise.
  • Chronic constipation can last more than three months, and in some cases, can continue for years. It typically needs medical attention or prescription medications for relief.

How to prevent it

To avoid chronic constipation, you should know how to keep your bowels functioning regularly.

Take the following proactive steps on a daily basis to give your digestive system the support it needs.

Listen to your body

Train your body to go to the bathroom at the same time every morning when your motor activity is at its highest. Don’t resist the urge to go. 

If you notice the trigger in your body, take advantage of the opportunity. If you ignore the urge, your stool can stay in your bowels longer and reabsorb more water, which can make it difficult to eliminate from your body.

Drink lots of liquids

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to keep your system flushed out. You should especially drink more liquids when you’re exercising.

Add fiber to your diet

Increase your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, which include:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Oatmeal
  • Beans
  • Rice bran
  • Whole grains

Bulk fiber laxatives like psyllium or methylcellulose can also help.

Exercise regularly

When you have a daily routine of moving your body, the activity promotes circulation and helps your bowels work efficiently and regularly.

Treatment for your chronic constipation

If your lifestyle changes don’t help, we can prescribe medication to keep your digestive system on track. We might also recommend suppositories or certain laxatives, but they need to be used with care, because they can worsen your condition if overused.

Contact our friendly office staff today at 281-397-3499, or text us at 832-639-5725, or request an appointment online.

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