ZocdocAnswersWhat causes chronic constipation?

Question

What causes chronic constipation?

My wife has been constipated for as long as I've known her. She is always just saying that she needs to drink more water and that it is not a serious problem, but it seems like any problem for that length of time must be more serious than she allows for. What causes chronic or long-term constipation? Is it a problem to just take laxatives for it?

Answer

Constipation is one of the most common medical conditions. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue in greater detail include your wife's primary care doctor or gastroenterologist. The most common cause of constipation is simply not taking in enough fiber (fresh fruits and the like) and water. However, if someone tries to do these things without effect, then other causes of constipation should be investigated. Although it is ok to take laxatives for constipation, these should not be taken to cover over underlying problems that should be investigated. Another very common cause of constipation is lactose intolerance; simply trying a dairy free diet for a while may clear this up. Problems with the function of the thyroid gland are also quite common and can be assessed with a simple blood test. Celiac disease, which is a reaction of the body to the gluten found in wheat and related grains, can cause abdominal pain and constipation and can be diagnosed by a doctor with a series of blood tests. As always, the diagnosis and the management of your wife's particular concerns will require a physical examination by her personal physician. Setting up an office visit with her primary care doctor is highly recommended.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.