Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water, or if muscle contractions in the colon slow down and cause the stool to “stall” in the intestinal tract. The most common causes of constipation include the following:
· Dehydration. Two to 3 liters of water are needed each day for optimal bowel function.
· Low fiber diet. Fiber is found in beans, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. But make changes to a high-fiber diet gradually; a quick change can cause gas and bloating.
· Many diseases. Some diseases and health problems can cause constipation, such as stroke, Parkinson’s, diabetes, kidney disease, low or high thyroid function, and certain neurological or muscular disease, including multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries.
· Many medications. Aluminum antacids, anticonvulsants, narcotics, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and ACE inhibitors can all cause constipation.
· Possible infection. Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections can cause issues.
· Overuse of laxatives is common and compounds the problem. Chronic use causes the bowel to become lazy, and the muscles become dependent on laxatives to constrict. Some laxatives can cause damage to the nerve cells in the wall of the colon.
· Pregnancy commonly causes constipation but is also temporary.
· Food sensitivities, dysbiosis (inflammation), and leaky gut syndrome are other causes.
· Lack of movement; regular exercise keeps you regular.
· Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium helps with peristalsis (rhythmic muscle relaxation and contraction). Introduce it slowly to avoid diarrhea.
· Linked to elevated blood lipids, increased gut permeability, and possibly increased risk of intestinal cancer.
For additional information on keeping a healthy digestive tract, read What Goes in Must Come Out.