What Causes Chronic Constipation?

Oftentimes, knowing the cause of a problem is the first step in knowing how to prevent the problem. This can be true of chronic constipation as well. Although there are many causes that cannot be prevented, there are some that can be understood and taken to heart to prevent chronic constipation from occurring.

In theory, constipation is caused by food simply moving too slowly through the digestive tract and colon. However, there are underlying reasons that this occurs and having an understanding of these reasons can help prevent chronic constipation from occurring and possibly help treat it if it does occur.


Dietary problems can be the root of chronic constipation. Diets that are low in fiber are practically a guarantee that constipation will occur. The digestive system needs roughage or fiber in order to push food through and out of the body. This is usually part of a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and grains. However, many people fail to take in an adequate amount of fiber and wind up with chronic constipation.

Lack of Water

Water is necessary to keep the stool soft and easy to pass through the colon and out of the body. People who don’t drink enough water have a tendency to have constipation more often than those who drink the suggested eight (8 oz.) glasses of water daily.


Stress can cause the body to behave in odd ways. It can cause the over production of hormones or an underproduction of hormones. Hormones are part of the digestive system and any disruption can cause constipation.


Many medications are responsible for constipation. Painkillers are particularly prone to causing chronic constipation and at times must be stopped in order to get the bowels back on track. Other medicines that are known to cause constipation include certain antidepressants, anticonvulsants, iron, and some calcium channel blocking drugs. Sometimes the doctor can simply switch the medication to another one that does the same thing; otherwise, the doctor may have to add a fiber supplement or other medication to help with bowel movements.


This may seem like a contradiction; however, people who abuse laxatives can actually find that they are chronically constipated as a result. Abusing stimulant laxatives, as is often done by people with weight disorders, can cause the body to be unable to have a bowel movement without the aid of the stimulant. The stimulants are thought to cause damage to the colon muscles.

Hormonal Disorders

What Causes Chronic Constipation?

Stress is not the only thing that causes hormonal disorders. There are health conditions that cause hormonal problems and thus cause chronic constipation. If the thyroid produces too little or too much of the hormone parathyroid, constipation can occur.

An increase in estrogen or progesterone can also cause constipation. This often occurs during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The good news is that this cause usually rectifies itself and the bowels go back to normal without any intervention.

Lack of Sleep and Exercise

Poor sleep habits and a lack of exercise can lead to chronic constipation. Exercise stimulates the digestive tract and leads to healthy bowel movements. A lack of sleep often leads to a lack of exercise and constipation is the end result.


Parasites can enter the body in many different ways, such as walking barefoot through grass or handling and many other ways. Parasites can be responsible for a host of health issues including constipation. This reason for constipation is not easy to diagnose and typically requires a doctor to treat.


There are many different diseases that are responsible for chronic constipation and can only be treated by a doctor. These diseases typically affect the muscles that control the colon and help push food through the colon. Some of these diseases include diabetes, Chagas disease, scleroderma, and Hirschprung’s disease.  Cancer can also be a leading cause of constipation if it is in the colon and causing a blockage.

While it might seem odd to think that brain and spinal cord injuries can cause constipation, it is true. Spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease are all examples of central nervous system diseases that can cause chronic constipation.

Birth Defects

There are several birth defects that can cause chronic constipation. The two most common are colonic inertia and pelvic floor dysfunction. These are conditions that typically are birth defects or occur later in life but are simply a failure on the part of the colon muscles or the lower pelvic muscles that are a part of the rectum, to function normally. The cause of these defects is not known.

Regardless of the cause of chronic constipation, the goal of anyone who suffers with it is to find relief and get their bowels back on a normal schedule. Knowing the cause behind the constipation is the first step in knowing how to treat it and be well.