Common Causes of Constipation

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

Inflammatory bowel disease is made up of at least two main disorders: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. While there are major differences between the two conditions, there are also similarities. For example, both disorders can cause inflammation of the intestines and both can lead to constipation. If you’re experiencing constipation, speak with your doctor.

What is constipation?

Constipation is usually defined as straining when trying to have a bowel movement, having hard stools or infrequent bowel movements. It is quite common, with 15 to 30 percent of the general population reporting constipation recently. There is a much higher rate of constipation in women, in those with low physical activity, and in the geriatric population.


With Crohn’s disease, constipation can happen as a result of a partial obstruction in the intestines. In ulcerative colitis, constipation may be a symptom of inflammation of the rectum. However, with most chronic disorders in general, and digestive disorders specifically, there can be more than one factor associated with the symptoms.

For example, nutritional variations or deficiencies can cause constipation. If you have abdominal pain from IBD, a well-balanced diet may not sound appealing to you because you may have a limited choice of easy-to-digest food. Psychological stress can also have an impact on constipation.

Common medications, such as antacids and certain antidepressants, can also cause constipation. Chronic disease is associated with an increase in depression so it can be common for someone who does not feel well physically to be treated with an antidepressant.

Caffeinated drinks can also cause constipation by causing the body to be more dehydrated and, thus, react by absorbing additional water from the colon. It is understandable if someone is not sleeping well because of IBD and then craves more caffeine throughout the day. A lack of exercise can also cause constipation, though it’s not always easy to exercise if you don’t feel well or are in pain.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.