What Causes Chronic Constipation?
The stomach churns and mixes food so it can be digested. The near-liquid
food then enters the small intestine which extracts calories, minerals
and vitamins. The small intestine ends in the right-lower abdomen where
it enters the colon. The colon, or large bowel, is 5 to 6 feet long. Its
function is to withdraw water from the liquid stool, so that by the
time it reaches the rectum, there is a soft formed stool. If an
excessive amount of water is extracted, the stool can become hard and
difficult to expel.
A major cause of chronic constipation is a lazy colon that does not contract properly and fails to move the stool to the rectum. The colon also can
become spastic and remain contracted for a prolonged time. In this case,
stool cannot move along. Too much water is absorbed and hard
pellet-like stool develops. Constipation also can result from a
mechanical obstruction, such as tumors or advanced Diverticulosis,
a disorder which can distort and narrow the lower left colon. Other
conditions that can produce a sluggish, poorly contracting bowel include
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, pregnancy, certain drugs such as antidepressants, blood pressure medicines and narcotic painkillers, thyroid hormone deficiency, chronic abuse of laxatives, travel, and stress.
More Causes of Chronic Constipation
Although many people can make simple dietary or lifestyle changes and improve chronic constipation, some conditions that may not seem related to lower bowel health can negatively affect regularity. Hypothyroidism, for example, causes constipation – even though the thyroid is located in the neck. Some people suffering from constipation report that certain foods such as bananas, dairy products and chocolate cause it, as does adding an iron or calcium supplement to your diet. Depression, which slows down all of the body’s functions, can result in constipation. And if you’re accustomed to taking an antacid after dinner and you also suffer from regularity problems, your calcium-rich, post-meal antidote may be causing your issues.
If none of these causes sound familiar, it’s time to add more fiber to your diet slowly and schedule an appointment for a lower gastrointestinal checkup. Read the labels on the boxed, bagged, and canned foods you purchase, and record their fiber contents; you can also read our fiber content of foods chart. Fiber-rich cereals, fruits such as apples and strawberries, and dark leafy vegetables are all important elements of a high fiber diet. You can also try a prebiotic supplement, such as Prebiotin.