What is Constipation?
             An Easy to Understand Explanation

A. What is constipation?

In a nutshell, most constipation is simply feces that has become dry and hard, making it difficult to pass. The answer is simply to keep it moist.

The colon’s job is to take the liquid mush coming from the small intestines and extract excess water for use elsewhere in the body.

A level of 75% water content in the stool is perfect, causing stool to be soft, slick, and easily eliminated.

There are numerous things that cause the moisture level to drop below 75%.

When this happens, the stool hardens, becoming compacted and less lubricated, with the result that it can be hard to pass...bad constipation.

B. How to know if you are constipated

Simply ask yourself the following:

1. How firm is my stool. It should be soft

2. How difficult is it to pass. It should be easy to pass

3. Is there a sensation that stool won’t come out

4. Is there straining, cramping or other pain associated with defecation

Unless a person eats very little, he or she should have a bowel movement at least once every 2 or 3 days.

There should be no straining, cramping or pain to pass it. Stool should be somewhat formed, but not larger than your middle finger.

Coloration of stool should also be looked at...here.

Stools with the right moisture level should allow you to get the job done quickly, preferably in less than a minute.

Whether stools are large and hard or small and pellet shaped, lumpy and hard stools are dry stools. These can be hard to pass. Lumpy and hard stool is a sign of constipation.

Here is an informative one minute video that shows how the colon works.

C. Constipation and gender

Gender affects constipation in 2 major ways:

If you are a woman, that “time of the month” can definitely be a factor.

Second, during pregnancy, hormonal influences plus the weight of the baby pushing on the colon can slow down stool passage.

Besides these two things, statistics show that neither men or women have a harder time with constipation.

D. Constipation and age

Unfortunately, children, young people and adults all struggle with constipation. Dehydration, a diet low in fiber, and foods that tend to cause constipation has its effect on all ages.

Having said this, the elderly tend to suffer more with constipation than others. It is generally believed that lack of physical activity is a key factor.

Degrees of Constipation

Occasional constipation

Most people have a little constipation now and then. This is generally caused by a temporary shift in diet, or traveling. Once conditions return to normal, so do their bowels.

Also read more about slow transit constipation

Chronic constipation

This constipation is constant and lasts for 3 or more months. There are numerous factors that may cause it.

Large, hard stools are hard to pass. Because of this, people may try to avoid defecation, which only makes the problem worse. This is especially true for children.

According to “The Rome III” criteria, when you have any 2 of these 6 symptoms for three monts or more you have chronic constipation

  • You feel you can't totally empty out
  • Your stools are hard
  • You have to strain during the bowel movement

  • You defecate less than three times a week
  • You must use a finger inside the anus in order to defecate
  • There is a blocked feeling in the rectum

If constipation is just a way of life, you might want to have your doctor evaluate it and help you with a treatment plan.

Functional constipation

Six months or more of chronic constipation is sometimes referred to as functional constipation.

It will not have the symptom of abdominal pain such as is found in Crohn’s disease.

Severe chronic constipation

People with long-term constipation tend to develop unpleasant constipation symptoms, some caused by toxins absorbed from feces into the blood stream.

They feel like they never really empty out without the use of a laxative. They can routinely take 10 minutes or more of straining in an attempt to make something happen.

Acute constipation

This can come suddenly and last for days. It may be caused by a medication, dehydration, a blockage in the colon, or just missing a bowel movement.

Read on more about acute constipation

Irritable bowel syndrome

This is an advanced stage of constipation where fecal material lines the walls of the colon.

In an effort to dislodge it, the body uses copious amounts of water to try and dislodge it.

A person may have a somewhat normal bowel movement, then several episodes of diarrhea (mostly water).


This is a condition caused by a person time and time again suppressing the urge to go.

Fecal impaction

This is the accumulation of hardened stool in the rectum which a person can’t pass without the aid of an enema or by manually breaking up and removing the hardened feces with the finger.


This form of severe constipation can be life threatening.

It is caused when fecal matter completely blocks a section of the colon, so that not even gas can get through.

Other dangers of constipation.

A Quick and Easy Constipation Solution

Besides changes in diet and lifestyle, I have found that magnesium is about the best way to overcome most of these forms of constipation and to avoid them all together.

Philips Milk of Magnesia and Epson Salt are temporary measures. For long-term relief, I take a mineral supplement that is rich in magnesium.

Since it is designed to be taken daily, it’s magnesium has the ability to put an end to many forms of constipation.

My wife and I have taken it since 2006, and now enjoy regular, soft bowel movements in place of chronic constipation. Magnesium also has numerous other health benefits.

It even worked for my daughter, who suffered with terrible constipation for most of her childhood. It has the potential to help recovering anorexiaWho knows, it might just work for you.

(Return from What is Constipation to Best Constipation Remedies)

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