There are many causes of constipation – lifestyle choices, medications, medical conditions, and pregnancy.
Common lifestyle causes of constipation include:
- Eating foods low in fiber.
- Not drinking enough water (dehydration).
- Not getting enough exercise.
- Changes in your regular routine, such as traveling or eating or going to bed at different times.
- Eating large amounts of milk or cheese.
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement.
Medications that can cause constipation include:
- Strong pain medicines, like the narcotics containing codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin®) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid®).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®).
- Antidepressants, including the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (like fluoxetine [Prozac®]) or tricyclic antidepressants (like amitriptyline [Elavil®]).
- Antacids containing calcium or aluminum, such as Tums®.
- Iron pills.
- Allergy medications, such as antihistamines (like diphenhydramine [Benadryl®]).
- Certain blood pressure medicines, including calcium channel blockers (like verapamil [Calan SR], diltiazem [Cardizem®] and nifedipine [Procardia®]) and beta-blockers (like atenolol [Tenormin®]).
- Psychiatric medications, like clozapine (Clozaril®) and olanzapine (Zyprexa®).
- Anticonvulsant/seizure medications, such as phenytoin and gabapentin.
- Antinausea medications, like ondansetron (Zofran®).
Many drugs can cause constipation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.
Medical and health conditions that can cause constipation include:
- Endocrine problems, like underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), diabetes, uremia, hypercalcemia.
- Colorectal cancer.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Diverticular disease.
- Outlet dysfunction constipation. (A defect in the coordination of pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the organs within the pelvis and lower abdomen. They are needed to help release stool.)
- Neurologic disorders including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
- Lazy bowel syndrome. The colon contracts poorly and retains stool.
- Intestinal obstruction.
- Structural defects in the digestive tract (like fistula, colonic atresia, volvulus, intussusception, imperforate anus, or malrotation.)
- Multiple organ diseases, such as amyloidosis, lupus, and scleroderma.