Constipation: Symptoms, causes and treatment

Did you know that suffering from constipation is a common problem? While there isn’t one distinct cause of constipation, understanding your symptoms can help you identify any contributing factors and help you find a path to symptom relief.

What is constipation?

Constipation occurs when a person’s digestive system fails to function normally, leading to irregularity. Constipation symptoms vary between cases, but the diagnostic criteria below can help you to determine whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are considered chronic constipation.

  • Straining during at least 25% of defaecations
  • Lumpy or hard stools in at least 25% of defaecations
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation for at least 25% of defaecations
  • Sensation of anorectal obstruction/blockage for at least 25% of defaecations
  • Manual manoeuvres to facilitate at least 25% of defaecations.

If two or more or the above criteria are met across a three month period, this may be considered chronic constipation.

Common causes of constipation

A low-fibre diet

Regular consumption of fibre rich foods like fruit & vegetables, cereals, bran and bread helps maintain regularity. The body does not absorb insoluble fibre, so it travels through the system to the bowel, where it provides ‘bulk’ for the bowel motion. Digesting a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre helps maintain normal intestinal function.

Insufficient fluid intake

Bowel movement frequency decreases with very low fluid intake (500mL per day, compared to 2500mL per day). A recent study in people with functional constipation who were consuming adequate fibre indicates that consuming approximately two litres of fluid per day increased bowel movement frequency, compared to those consuming only one litre of water per day.

Lack of exercise

Living a lifestyle that’s sedentary or those who experience restricted movement as a result of a disability may contribute to constipation.

Certain Medications

Some medicines may cause constipation, e.g. codeine and morphine, some antacids, iron and calcium supplements. Please seek the advice of your GP or pharmacist.

Changes in routine

Disruption of your body clock, e.g. when travelling, can upset your usual bowel habits leading to symptoms of constipation. Suppressing the need to go to the toilet can also lead to constipation.

How can I prevent constipation?

While constipation medication can be helpful for relief from this condition, making changes to your diet, like eating fibre-rich, exercising and drinking plenty of fluids, are all natural remedies to help prevent constipation. It’s best to check with your doctor before making any dietary changes, including increasing your fibre intake.

Eating a varied diet for healthy digestion

Try to eat and drink regularly. Routine eating habits and fixed mealtimes help your digestive system. Eating high-fibre foods such as fruit and vegetables, drinking plenty of water or other fluids, herbal tea or vegetable juice will help you avoid constipation.

Exercise regularly

You don’t have to become a top athlete: about 30 minutes of light exercise a day is enough. If you find that difficult, start small and try to integrate exercise in the fresh air into your daily routine. Go out on your bike, play sport with friends or go for a walk.

How can I relieve constipation?

If constipation affects you or any family member, the Dulco range of products could be helpful.The Dulco range includes Dulcolax Tablets and Dulcolax SP Drops that provide clinically proven1-3 relief from constipation. Dulcolax suppositories are effective in 20-45 minutes for predictable relief from constipation.

When To See Your Doctor

Constipation isn’t usually a serious problem. Laxatives are recommended for short term use only, so you should consult your doctor if symptoms persist. Inform your health professional of any changes in your health or medications and dietary supplements that you may be taking.

* Sanofi Global Flashcube – IQVIA MAT Sept 2021 Scan Sales (exc. USA – Nielsen, Sth Korea – UBIST). Pertains to Dulcolax & Dulcosoft only. Pertains to Dulcolax & Dulcosoft only.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.


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3. Mueller-Lissner et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 2010;105(4):897-903. Sponsored by Boehringer-Ingelheim.

4. Wiriyakosol, S et al. Asian Journal of Surgery. 2007; 30 (3): 167-172.

5. Mandel, L and Silinsky, J. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1960; 83 (8): 384-387.

6. Phillips, R.W. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 1965; 13 (1): 78-79.

7. Pincock, J.G. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1960; 82: 268-269. 8. Lvine, J. and Rinzlner, S.H. The American Journal of Cardiology. 1960; 108-110.

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