Persistent difficulty in bowel movements could be a sign of chronic constipation

Persistent problems in bowel movements or a blocked feeling in the lower gastrointestinal tract might indicate chronic constipation. 

Occasional constipation, or difficulty having bowel movements, can happen to many people. But those suffering from this medical condition more persistently may be affected by chronic constipation. Chronic constipation may be diagnosed by a doctor if symptoms last for three months or more, including passing fewer than three stools per week.1*

The cause of constipation can be caused by many things, and sometimes the exact cause is unknown. Blockages in the colon or rectum, problems with the nerve signals or rectum and colon muscles, or changes in hormones are possible causes of constipation. While this medical condition is unpleasant, it is not uncommon. Up to one quarter of the population experiences chronic constipation, and doctors who treat gastrointestinal (GI) disorders often spend around half their time treating it.2

While it is important to rule out causes related to more serious diseases, such as cancer, that might be causing a blockage, most people who suffer from chronic constipation are able to address their constipation symptoms through lifestyle and dietary changes. Specific risk factors for chronic constipation include low dietary fibre, dehydration and low levels of physical activity. Certain medications may also lead to chronic constipation. Those afflicted with chronic constipation should consider increasing their daily amount of physical exercise, getting sufficient fluid intake and trying to eat up to 30 grams of fibre a day. We at Nestlé Health Science are devoted to developing nutritional solutions for GI disorders such as chronic constipation with the aim of helping patients manage their condition better.

  1. Accessed December 2014.
  2. Accessed December 2014.

*Listed constipation symptoms are not all-inclusive; actual patient symptoms may vary.

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Only around 1/3 of patients suffering from chronic constipation consult a doctor

Chronic constipation for three months or more is unpleasant, but treatments for constipation are available. Accessed December 2014.

Stay hydrated


Dehydration is a common cause of chronic constipation. Drinking enough fluids each day may help make bowel movements easier. The best thing to drink is water; juices, clear broths or soups and teas may also be helpful constipation relief.
Eat foods high in fibre


One way to manage symptoms of chronic constipation is to increase dietary fibre. There are certain foods that can help increase daily fibre intake. These include not only whole grains, but also fruits (fresh and dried), vegetables, beans, peas and potatoes. Eating foods like these prepared with appetising and healthy recipes may help to increase the amount of fibre intake, while making it enjoyable.

Exercise can help with constipation


Many types of exercise may be helpful in reducing symptoms of chronic constipation. Exercise may help by causing food to move through the digestive system more effectively. Stretching and yoga, aerobic exercise, and even simply walking are all beneficial exercises which may help with chronic constipation.1

  1. Accessed December 2014.