Constipation

Constipation is a common condition in the digestive tract characterised by difficulty passing stools.

  • Bowel movements may be infrequent
  • There may be difficulty during defecation including straining
  • There may be a sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation

The causes of constipation include medications, low activity of the thyroid or elevated levels of calcium in the blood.

There are also rare genetic disorders but the most common cause of constipation remains unclear. Lack of fibre, lack of exercise or lack of water intake is not the cause of constipation in the general population. It is still

Lack of fibre, lack of exercise or lack of water intake is not the cause of constipation in the general population. Constipation may be associated with abdominal pain which is relieved on defecation, bloating, tiredness, reflux, nausea and increased flatulence.

Constipation may be associated with abdominal pain, which is relieved on defecation, also bloating, tiredness, reflux, nausea and increased flatulence.

Reseach points to bacteria cause

Research conducted at the Centre for Digestive Diseases indicates that the most likely cause of constipation found in the majority of patients is caused by an infection with a bacterial agent that has entered the bowel through the mouth.

Its presence in the bowel flora is marked by the production of molecules within the bowel which affect the enteric nervous system partially paralysing the bowel. If the constipation agent produces severe paralysis the bowel may not empty for days or weeks. Most commonly very mild forms are present and people tend to overcome this with simple methods such as excessive fibre or even chemical laxatives such as naturally occurring teas which may contain senna.

Most commonly very mild forms are present and people tend to overcome this with simple methods such as excessive fibre or even chemical laxatives such as naturally occurring teas which may contain senna.

However worldwide, the research on constipation has been extremely slow because of the belief that it is caused by lack of fibre in the diet.

We now know this is not correct because removal of fibre from the diet of healthy patients does not cause constipation.

Antibiotic treatment

It appears that constipation is almost certainly caused by bacteria that responds to antibiotics. At the Centre for Digestive Diseases we use these principles to treat patient’s chronic constipation to improve their quality of life.