Constipation is a common condition with a wide range of possible causes


Bouts of constipation are often unpredictable, so it’s hard to anticipate them.


One of the biggest causes of constipation is not getting enough fibre, which moves things along in your bowels. You can get more fibre by eating fruit, vegetables, pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas) and whole grains. Because fibre absorbs water in your gut, be sure to increase your fluid intake as well. But do it gradually. Too much fibre too soon can cause constipation, along with gas and bloating.

Getting more exercise


Being inactive is also a constipation culprit. That’s because physical activity stimulates your bowel muscles, giving you the urge to go to the bathroom more frequently. Bottom line? Getting moving can get your bowels moving. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise three days a week or more.


Stress—both temporary and long-term—can have a huge effect on bowel function. Money worries, relationship problems or going through a big change in life can all affect your digestive system, leading to bouts of constipation.

Too much stress and anxiety are also linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you experience stomach pains or cramping and bloating alongside your constipation, it may be IBS.



Our bodies are creatures of habit, so a change in your normal daily routine can affect your bowel movements. For example, worrying about using the toilet on a plane, or a long car journey can leave you constipated, as can eating different types of foods or becoming dehydrated when abroad.

Causes of constipation - hormones


Fluctuating hormones before the menstrual cycle can also trigger constipation. Try upping your fibre and fluids beforehand to help avoid it.

Causes of constipation - pregnancy


The pregnancy hormone, progesterone, relaxes your muscles to make room for a growing baby—but it also slows down the muscles that push food and waste along. Taking iron supplements, as many women do during pregnancy, can cause constipation as well.

Speak to your doctor before taking any treatments if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Causes of constipation - menopause


Hormonal changes during menopause, and the years that lead up to it, can bring on constipation.

Getting older


As you get older, the muscles in your digestive tract slow down, which means food takes longer to pass through your system. Not getting the same amount of exercise as you used to, or taking certain medicines can also cause constipation in older people.



Constipation can be a side effect of some drugs, including:

  • Codeine-based painkillers
  • Antacids used to treat indigestion (particularly if they contain aluminum)
  • Iron tablets taken for anemia
  • Some types of blood pressure medication
  • Anti-epilepsy medications
  • Medicines used to treat Parkinson's disease

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Doctor's warning

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you're having problems with constipation after starting any new medication. Never make changes to your prescribed medication without consulting a healthcare professional first.