Constipation is a condition in which there are fewer than three bowel movements a week or bowel movements with stools that are hard, dry, and small, making
them painful or difficult to pass.1
Occasional constipation, or difficulty having bowel movements, happens to many people,2 and affects up to 42 million people in the United
States. Those who suffer with constipation more persistently may be affected by chronic constipation. Chronic constipation may be diagnosed by a doctor if
symptoms last for three months or more, including passing fewer than three stools per week.3
Chronic constipation can be caused by many things, and sometimes the exact cause is unknown. Blockages in the colon or rectum, problems with the nerve
signals or muscles of the rectum and colon, or changes in hormones can be some of the possible causes. Up to 15% of the population experiences chronic
While it is important to rule out causes related to other more serious diseases, such as cancer, that might be causing a blockage, specific risk factors
for chronic constipation include low dietary fiber, dehydration, and low levels of physical activity. Certain medications can also lead to chronic
constipation. Some people who suffer from chronic constipation are able to manage their symptoms through lifestyle and dietary changes.5 Those
afflicted with chronic constipation should consider increasing their daily amount of exercise, getting sufficient fluid intake and trying to eat up to 30
grams of fiber a day.6
1El-Salhy et al.
MOLECULAR MEDICINE REPORTS 9: 3-8, 2014
Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review. American Journal of Gastroenterology.
3Lacy et al.
Ther Adv Gastroenterol
(2012) 5(4) 233–247
4American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on Constipation. GASTROENTEROLOGY 2013;144:211–217
5Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). (2005)
6National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.