Constipation is commonly caused by inadequate amounts of fibre in the diet, but other contributing factors may include:
- Not drinking enough water.
- Not getting enough exercise.
- Putting off going to the toilet after you get the urge. (This increases the length of time the stool remains in the bowel, and can result in more water being extracted from the stool, making it more difficult to pass. It may also dampen the body’s recognition of the signals that indicate it is time to go to the toilet).
- Pregnancy. This occurs due to a combination of hormonal factors, reduced activity levels, and the physical pressure of the uterus and baby on the digestive system.
- Use of certain medications, including some iron supplements, blood pressure medicines and narcotics (e.g. codeine).
- Changes in routine such as travel or doing shift work.
- Getting older.
Some people put off going to the toilet for fear of pain that occurs when they have a bowel motion. Amongst other causes, this may be due to an anal fissure (tear).
Other reasons for constipation may include irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, colorectal cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and bowel obstruction or constriction (for example due to haemorrhoids or a hernia).