Constipation: What Are the Different Types and How Are They Treated?

Types of ConstipationIf you’ve ever experienced constipation, you’re certainly not alone. Constipation, marked by infrequent or difficult bowel movements, is a common digestive issue that impacts people of all ages.

In addition to physical discomfort, it can also affect your mental health and overall well-being. Understanding the different types of constipation, their treatments, and ways to prevent them can significantly improve your digestive health.

Types of Constipation


Constipation can be categorized into three main types, each with different causes and treatment strategies:

  • Normal-Transit Constipation: Despite its name, normal-transit constipation, or functional constipation, can be quite uncomfortable. This is the most common type of constipation where the rate of passage of stool through the colon is normal. However, people still experience constipation symptoms like hard stools, straining during bowel movements, and a sense of incomplete evacuation.
  • Slow-Transit Constipation: This type of constipation is due to a delay in the movement of stool through the colon. People with slow-transit constipation typically have infrequent bowel movements and may also feel a lack of urge to go.
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Constipation (Anismus): This is caused by a coordination problem with the pelvic floor muscles involved in defecation. People with this condition often strain and have a feeling of incomplete evacuation after bowel movement.

Risk Factors for Constipation

  • Low-Fiber Diet: A diet that lacks sufficient fiber can lead to constipation. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. Foods that are low in fiber include processed foods, meat, and dairy products.
  • Insufficient Fluid Intake: Not drinking enough fluids can cause stools to become hard and difficult to pass. Water and other fluids help soften the stool, facilitating its movement through the digestive tract.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: Physical activity helps stimulate the muscles in the intestines, aiding in the movement of stool. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to constipation.
  • Advanced Age: As we age, our metabolism slows down, which can result in slower intestinal activity and, consequently, constipation. Additionally, older adults may be more likely to take medications that can cause constipation.
  • Certain Medications: Some medications can cause constipation as a side effect. These include certain pain medications (especially opioids), some antidepressants, antacids containing calcium or aluminum, some blood pressure medications, and certain medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of constipation. These include neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, metabolic and endocrine disorders like diabetes or hypothyroidism, and gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome or colorectal cancer.
  • Ignoring the Urge to Defecate: Regularly ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to constipation over time. The longer the stool stays in the colon, the more water is absorbed, making it harder and more difficult to pass.
  • Overuse of Laxatives: Regular use of laxatives can cause the bowels to become dependent on them, leading to constipation when they are not used. Over time, the colon can lose its natural ability to contract, leading to chronic constipation.
  • Stress and Mental Health Issues: Stress, anxiety, and certain mental health conditions can affect the digestive system and lead to constipation. The brain and the gut are closely linked, and psychological stress can impact bowel movements.

Treatment & Diagnosis for Constipation

Treatment for constipation typically starts with lifestyle changes, such as increasing fiber intake, drinking more water, and getting regular exercise. Over-the-counter laxatives may be recommended for short-term use.

For chronic constipation or when symptoms persist, doctors may order a number of tests, like blood tests, X-rays, or a colonoscopy, to find out the cause. Depending on the type of constipation, treatment may involve medication to improve bowel contraction, biofeedback therapy, or in severe cases, surgery.

The Impact of Constipation on Your Physical and Mental Health

Physical Impact:

  • Discomfort and Pain: Chronic constipation can lead to physical discomfort, such as bloating and abdominal pain. The strain of trying to pass hard, dry stools can result in discomfort and even pain in the abdominal area.
  • General Unwellness: The body’s inability to effectively eliminate waste can lead to a general feeling of unwellness. This can manifest as fatigue, low energy, and a decreased appetite.
  • Complications: Complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures (small tears in the anus), and rectal prolapse (a condition where part of the rectum slides out of the anus) can arise from chronic constipation if it is not treated.

Mental Impact:

  • Stress: The ongoing struggle with constipation can lead to increased stress levels. The discomfort and the constant worry about bowel movements can contribute to overall stress and anxiety.
  • Embarrassment: Many people feel embarrassed about their constipation, particularly if they need to use the bathroom frequently or urgently. This can lead to feelings of shame and can impact social interactions.
  • Social Withdrawal: Some individuals may withdraw from social activities due to the discomfort and embarrassment associated with chronic constipation. They may avoid going out or participating in activities that they fear may exacerbate their symptoms or where they may not have easy access to a bathroom.
  • Impact on Quality of Life: Chronic Constipation that lasts for a long time can greatly affect how a person lives. It can cause physical pain and emotional strain that gets in the way of normal routines, work, socializing, and happiness.

Foods to Limit for Preventing Constipation

  • Low-Fiber Foods: Foods low in fiber can contribute to constipation. These include processed foods like chips, frozen meals, and fast food.
  • Red Meat: Red meat is typically high in fat and can slow down the digestive process. It’s also low in fiber, which you need to maintain regular bowel movements.
  • Dairy Products: Foods like cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products can cause constipation in some people. This is especially true for those who are lactose intolerant.
  • Fried or Fast Foods: These foods are typically high in fat and low in fiber, which can slow digestion.
  • Caffeine: While small amounts can stimulate bowel movements, excessive consumption can lead to dehydration and constipation.
  • Alcohol: Like caffeine, alcohol can cause dehydration and lead to constipation.
  • Gluten: For some people, especially those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, foods containing gluten can cause constipation.

By avoiding these foods and incorporating more high-fiber foods into your diet, you can help prevent constipation.

Natural Remedies to Prevent Constipation

  • High-Fiber Diet: Consuming a diet rich in fiber can significantly improve bowel regularity. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. Foods high in fiber include fruits like apples and pears, vegetables like broccoli and carrots, and whole grains like oats and brown rice.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, is crucial in preventing constipation. Fluids help soften the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract.
  • Physical Activity: Regular exercise can stimulate your intestines and speed up your digestion. Activities such as walking, running, swimming, or even yoga can help stimulate bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Home Remedies to Alleviate Constipation

  • Warm Liquids: Drinking warm liquids, especially in the morning, can stimulate bowel movements. Warm water or herbal teas can help soften the stool and stimulate the digestive tract.
  • Herbal Teas: Certain herbal teas, like senna or peppermint, have natural laxative properties that can help alleviate constipation. Senna tea stimulates the muscles in your intestines, helping to move stool through your system, while peppermint tea can soothe digestive issues and relax the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract.
  • Natural Laxatives: Foods like prunes or bran cereal are natural laxatives that can help relieve constipation. Prunes are rich in fiber and contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as a laxative. Bran cereal is high in dietary fiber, which adds bulk to your stool and helps it move through your colon more quickly.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Constipation

  • Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity helps stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles, aiding in bowel movement. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into your daily routine.
  • Balanced Diet: A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help prevent constipation. Try to limit foods that are high in fat and low in fiber, such as cheese, meat, and processed foods, which can contribute to constipation.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help soften your stool, making it easier to pass.
  • Heeding Nature’s Call: Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to constipation. When you feel the need to go, don’t delay. The longer you wait, the more water gets absorbed from your stool, making it harder to pass.

When to See a Doctor

While occasional constipation is common, you should seek medical attention if it becomes chronic, is accompanied by weight loss, severe pain, or blood in the stool, or if it doesn’t respond to simple treatments.

In conclusion, while constipation can be an uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating condition, it’s often preventable and treatable with the right lifestyle modifications, home remedies, and medical care when necessary.

Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.


Related Reading: