Is Constipation Linked to Kidney Disease?

Medically Reviewed

A study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology published online November 2016 has uncovered a disturbing link between moderate to severe constipation and poor kidney health.

Researchers tracked more than 3.5 million U.S. veterans, mostly male with an average age of 60, for a median time period of seven years. None of the men had kidney problems at the start of the study, but over that time, veterans with constipation had a 13 percent higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than veterans who had no signs of constipation. The vets who experienced constipation during the study interval also had a 9 percent increased risk of experiencing kidney failure. The patients who developed chronic kidney disease and kidney failure were more likely to be black and older and to have more chronic conditions than patients who had no kidney problems.

The researchers don’t know the reason for the connection, but one explanation could be that constipation might cause changes in the gut bacteria, which could be harmful to the kidneys.

While the study couldn’t prove that treating constipation could help prevent kidney disease, the researchers suggested that, if future studies can show a causal link, lifestyle changes to avoid constipation may keep kidneys healthy, too.

You can avoid constipation by drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, boosting your fiber intake (aim for 20 to 25 grams a day of fruits, vegetables, prune juice, whole grains, legumes, and other fiber rich foods), and never ignoring the urge to defecate.

Learn more about the risk factors for kidney disease and tips for treating constipation.