Constipation can be defined as difficulty to pass stools or irregular bowl movements generally less than three bowl movements per week. Constipation usually occurs when the stool moves to slow through the digestive track which could cause the stool to become dry and hard.

Occasional constipation may be common, but chronic constipation may interfere with your daily activities and mental health.

Look out for these symptoms of constipation:

If you experience two or more of these symptoms for 3 months, it can be classified as chronic constipation.

  • Less than 3 bowl movements a week for a few weeks
  • Hard or lumpy stools
  • Strain with bowl movements
  • Feeling as if you can’t completely empty the stool
  • Feeling as if there’s a blockage that prevents bowl movements
  • Need extra help to remove the stool

There may be other causes of constipation such as blockages in the colon and rectum, difficulty with muscles involved in elimination of the stool, nerve problems around the rectum and colon and conditions that may affect hormone levels such as pregnancy, underactive thyroid and diabetes.

What are risk factors for chronic constipation?

  • Being elderly with low physical activity levels
  • Low water intake that could lead to dehydration
  • Low fiber consumption in your diet
  • No or low physical activity levels
  • Certain medication or supplements

How can constipation be prevented?

  • Eat less processed foods or foods with no or little fiber such as white bread, chocolate
  • Consuming a high fiber diet by consuming whole grain products, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
  • Exercise daily (30-60 minutes a day)
  • Drink lots of water (2-3 litres a day).
  • Do not ignore the urge to pass a stools.
  • Adopt stress management strategies.

Consult with your medical practitioner for more advice and management for constipation.