Constipation is condition that occur when there is infrequent bowel movement (fewer than three bowel movements a week) or difficult passage of stools. It can persist for several weeks or longer and occur in babies, children and adults.

This condition usually occurs in the digestive tract. The slower the food moves through the digestive tract, the more water the colon will absorb from it, causing the feces to become dry and hard.

Types of constipation

  1. Chronic constipation of unknown cause
  2. Constipation due to opiates.

Causes of constipation

  1. Lack of fiber in diets by consuming high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and egg.
  2. Pregnancy, the uterus may compress the intestine, slowing down the passage of food.
  3. Milk and dairy products.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome.
  5. Changes in routine, for example, when you travel to another location.
  6. Ageing, slows down metabolism resulting in less intestinal activity.
  7. Physical inactivity, it keeps your body metabolism low.
  8. Dehydration by not drinking enough water.
  9. Not going to toilet when needed.
  10. Overuse of laxatives through self-medication.
  11. Diseases and disorders through the colon, rectum, or anus.

Ways to prevent constipation

There are various ways to prevent constipation, these are:

  1. Include enough fiber in your food by eating fruits and vegetables, wholegrain rice, wholewheat pasta, wholemeal bread, seeds and oats to keep your bowel movements regular.
  2. Always drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and cut back on your consumption of caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks
  3. Do not ignore the urge to go to the toilet and make sure you have enough time and privacy to pass stools comfortably
  4. Be physically active and engage in regular exercise
  5. Avoid self medication


Major treatment involves the increased intake of water and fiber (either dietary or as supplements). Routine or frequent use of laxatives is discouraged, as having bowel movements may come to be dependent upon their use.

Compiled by: Victoria Haruna, BSc. (Biochem), MPH (Health Promotion and education)


  1. NHS Choices; Constipation-Prevention, 2015
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. “Constipation overview”. Accessed,2017.
  3. Locke GR, Pemberton JH, Phillips SF (December 2000). “American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement: guidelines onconstipation”.Gastroenterology. 119 (6):17616. Doi:10.1053/gast.2000.20390. PMID 11113098.

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