Blog Post

5 Common Causes of Constipation

Straining to have a bowel movement isn't normal, especially if you usually don't have problems. Constipation is one of the main reasons for straining in the bathroom, but what causes it?

Many things can lead to constipation, including diet and, possibly, medications. Finding the cause of constipation usually helps you eliminate the problem and get back to normal toileting habits.

At Gateway Gastroenterology, our team understands the need for quick constipation relief. Our experienced gastroenterologists evaluate your symptoms to develop a personalized treatment plan to relieve stubborn constipation quickly.

The facts on constipation

Constipation is a common ailment that occurs when bowel movements are less frequent and harder than usual to pass. Typically, constipation results from changes in diet or other lifestyle factors.

Everyone's bowel habits are different, depending on their eating and overall health. However, the longer you go without pooping, the more difficult it becomes to pass.

The main sign of constipation is having less than three bowel movements weekly. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Bloating and nausea
  • Dry, hard-to-pass stools
  • Feeling of fullness in your colon
  • Cramping or stomach discomfort
  • Painful bowel movements


Constipation is prevalent and can happen frequently or only once in awhile. Making specific lifestyle changes or taking an over-the-counter supplement usually relieves constipation and may prevent it from recurring.

Five prevalent causes of constipation

Constipation usually happens as a result of lifestyle habits but can also be related to certain medical conditions. Older adults are more likely to suffer from constipation, but it can happen to anyone. Five common causes of constipation include:

1. Inadequate fiber intake

Fiber is essential for adding bulk to your stool, making it softer and easier to pass. Insufficient fiber intake causes the stool to be hard and lumpy, causing constipation.

2. Insufficient water intake

Water helps move waste through the bowels, making it easier to pass stools more frequently. Inadequate water intake slows this process and makes the waste hard and lumpy, making it difficult to pass through the rectum.

3. Irritable bowel syndrome

IBS is a disorder of the gastrointestinal system. It may cause constipation based on what you eat and your lifestyle habits. It's a very prevalent cause of the condition.

4. Certain medications

Some medications have a side effect of constipation. Narcotic pain medications, some antidepressants, antacids, and antihistamines all can lead to uncomfortable constipation symptoms.

5. Not exercising

Regular exercise helps stools move quickly through the intestines. The faster the stool moves, the less water your body absorbs, making it easier and softer to pass through the rectum.

When you don't exercise at all, or not regularly, the stool sits in the intestines longer, allowing the body to absorb more water. The stool then becomes hard, lumpy, and challenging to pass.

How can I get relief?

You can typically manage mild to moderate constipation at home through simple lifestyle changes. If you have constipation and want to get relief, follow these helpful tips to avoid it in the future:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Go when you have the urge to poop
  • Take an over-the-counter fiber supplement
  • Add in plenty of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables
  • Avoid too much dairy and cheese

You may also want to discuss your medications with our team to determine if they could be the culprit behind your constipation. Lowering your stress levels and keeping a food diary may help eliminate constipation.

More severe cases of constipation may require aggressive treatment. Prescription medications, laxatives, and an enema can help clear severe cases of constipation. Surgery is rarely necessary, but you may need it for mechanical issues causing constipation.

If you're struggling with constipation, don't hesitate to call for an appointment with one of our offices in Chesterfield, St. Louis, and Ballwin, Missouri, at 314-529-4900, or request a consultation on our website.