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Constipation is a condition in which a person has three or less bowel movements in a week. It is a common digestive system problem, characterized by infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, or strain during bowel movements.


Why should I be aware of this?

In a constipated system, the transition time of toxic wastes in the digestive tract is slow. The longer transit time means that the toxic waste matter is present for a longer time in the bowel, allowing it to putrefy, ferment and possibly be reabsorbed. The longer the body is exposed to putrefying food in the intestines, the greater the risk of developing disease. Even with one bowel movement per day, a person has at least three meals worth of waste matter putrefying in the colon. Constipation should not simply be accepted or ignored.

Normally bowel movement depends on the nature of the food one takes and exercise, among other things.

How does this affect me?

Constipation also inhibits the flow and absorption of vital nutrients in the body, and thereby affects a person's overall health. Prolonged bouts of constipation can lead to other health problems, such as

All about constipation

Food flows through the small intestine as a liquid mixture of digestive juices and the food that has been eaten. By the time it reaches the large intestine, all the nutrients have been absorbed. The large intestine absorbs water from the waste which is in a semi liquid form, and turns it into solid waste or stool. Sometimes too much water is absorbed by the large intestine, leaving a very hard and dry stool that cannot be passed without straining. This is constipation.


If a person does not have bowel movement everyday, it does not necessarily mean that he is constipated. A person is likely to be constipated if he or she:

  • Passes a hard stool fewer than three times a week
  • Strains frequently during bowel movements
  • Has abdominal bloating or discomfort


  • A low-fibre diet
  • Lack of visiting the toilet
  • Age
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Depression
  • Pregnancy
  • Illness
  • Stress
  • Thyroid
  • A dedicated and prolonged use of laxatives

Foods to avoid

  • Most cereals can cause constipation if left undigested.
  • Red meat and other meat preparations can cause heartburn and constipation.
  • Foods with high cholesterol content.
  • Biscuits and other heavily baked pastries and cakes that have high contents of margarine and flour can also add on to constipation.
  • White breads
  • Pastas
  • Processed foods


Although constipation can be extremely bothersome, it usually isn't serious. If it persists, and especially if straining results, a person may develop complications such as hemorrhoids and cracks or tears in the anus called abrasions or fissures.

Very severe or chronic constipation can sometimes cause a fecal impaction, a mass of hardened stool that you can't be eliminated by a normal bowel movement. An impaction can be dangerous, and it may need to be removed manually.

If a person uses laxatives frequently, he or she may develop lazy bowel syndrome, a condition in which bowels become dependent on laxatives to function properly.

What can I do?

Eating tips

  • Eat small and frequent meals
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Drink 1.5 l to 3 litres of fluid daily
  • Eat foods containing fibre such as brown rice, whole meal pasta, whole meal/brown bread, potatoes with their jackets.
  • Regular exercise

When to seek medical advise

  • Bowel movements just once or twice a week, despite corrective changes in diet or exercise
  • Intense abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Constipation that alternates with diarrhea
  • Rectal pain
  • Thin, pencil-like stools
  • Unexplained weight loss

Alternative therapies

  • Biofeedback therapy -- Biofeedback therapy may help people with constipation resulting from pelvic floor dysfunction
  • Probiotics -- There is some preliminary evidence that probiotics may improve constipation.
  • Acupressure -- Acupressure on a specific point on the intestine in a specified manner is said to ease constipation.
  • Herbal laxatives -- Herbal laxatives such as cascara sagrada, rhubarb, aloe vera, senna and buckthorn can be helpful. Do consult a doctor if you are using these for more than four days.


  • Although there is no doubt that fiber increases stool bulk and frequency, the role of dietary fiber to treat chronic constipation is exaggerated.[1]
  • According to research, fluid ingestion to treat chronic constipation is over-emphasized as well, and the success of fluid treatment is probably none.[1]
  • Data shows that chronic use of laxatives and the link between these drugs and risks of colorectal or other cancers does not exist. The drugs in the market are safe when appropriate drugs are prescribed and taken at recommended doses.[1]

See also


  • What I need to know about Constipation
  • Foods that Cause Constipation
  • Constipation
  • Constipation
  • Constipation causes health problems


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ScienceDaily:Debunking Constipation Myths: The Truth About High Fiber Diets And Laxatives