If you think you might be constipated, Dr. Brown says it’s important to first take account of your diet.
“Are you drinking enough water? Are you taking in enough fiber? If you have always had regular bowel movements, but something has abruptly changed, you should try dietary modification as well as seeing a physician to ensure nothing else is causing the issue,” he says.
Causes of constipation can be grouped into five broad categories:
- Slow transit, meaning the stool moves slowly through the colon. Nervous system issues can cause this to occur.
- Dyssynergic defecation, which means the patient has problems expelling stool from the rectum. In other words, the muscles that help your body expel waste don’t work properly.
- Irritable bowel syndrome, an incredibly common cause of constipation also associated with abdominal pain.
- Secondary causes such as metabolic disorders, endocrine disorders and medications, especially narcotic painkillers.
- Idiopathic causes, which means doctors can’t determine the reason constipation is happening.
“It’s important to figure out why someone is constipated because that really helps to tailor treatment to each patient,” Dr. Brown says.
Laxatives are generally a safe way to alleviate constipation, but Dr. Brown says there are also other ways to manage the problem.