What causes constipation

Struggling to clear your bowels—and passing hard, dry stools when you do — is a horrible feeling. Why does it happen? What are the root causes of constipation?

It’s not always easy to spot the exact cause of constipation, but we know that problems either begin when too much water is drawn back into your body from the large intestine, or when the muscles of the bowel aren’t working properly.

Good bacteria in your gut help you absorb the appropriate amount of water. Constipation can become an unpleasant part of your life if the numbers of good bacteria in your gut start to fall, allowing less beneficial bacteria to take over. Bad bacteria can also secrete toxins that can damage the nerves in the muscles of the intestine, slowing them down even further.

Underlying illnesses and medicines such as blood pressure drugs, iron tablets, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and long-term use of laxatives can all affect your bowel movements.

While constipation can be caused by weight issues, stress, depression and anxiety, it’s likely that the balance of bacteria in your gut is also contributing to the problem.

Foods that cause constipation

If constipation affects you regularly, an important thing to look at is your diet. Not drinking enough fluid and not eating enough fibre are common culprits. Particular foods that cause constipation include:

  • Red meat
  • Dairy products
  • Refined sugars in products such as fizzy drinks and desserts
  • Iron-rich foods such as liver and shellfish