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Constipation is an extremely common health condition that almost everyone will experience at some point in their lives. There are many different factors that can cause constipation, and it may arise as a result of (or alongside) other medical issues – for example, constipation and piles often occur together.

Luckily, there are also lots of simple steps you can take to treat constipation, plus lifestyle changes that help prevent it from happening in the first place.

This page discusses some of the most common symptoms and causes of constipation, as well as both natural and medical treatment and prevention options.

Causes Constipation

Constipation can have a wide variety of causes, and in some cases, it may not be possible to pinpoint exactly what triggered yours. Indeed, it could be a combination of several different issues. Many of the contributing factors relate to waste moving too slowly through your lower digestive system (e.g., when you have a lack of fibre in your diet).

Alternatively, it may be that you’re unable to efficiently pass stools through the rectum (e.g., as in haemorrhoid constipation). 

Below are some of the most common causes of constipation.

Dietary factors

The food you eat has an undeniable impact on the health of your digestive system. For example, fibre helps to stimulate the intestines and promote regular bowel movements. Therefore, if you have a diet that’s low in fibre, you may have a greater chance of getting constipated. Foods that are high in fibre include:

  • Wholemeal and granary bread
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Pulses (such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans)
  • Oats
  • Nuts and seeds

Conversely, the sort of foods you want to avoid includes white bread, highly processed foods, and dairy products.

Dehydration is another contributing dietary factor to constipation, as it can result in harder and drier stools. As such, it’s important to drink plenty of water every day and avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

Lifestyle factors

There are several other lifestyle-related causes of constipation beyond simply what you eat. For instance, one major contributor to both constipation and piles is inactivity.

Spending long periods of time sitting or lying down means you are more likely to have a sluggish digestive system. This, in turn, can lead to constipation.

It’s also possible for a change in routine to trigger constipation. One example of this is travel. When you go to a different country – especially to one in a very different time zone – the change in routine and the times when you eat, sleep, and use the bathroom can negatively impact your digestion.

Other risk factors for constipation include ageing, stress, anxiety, and depression. In some cases, this is due to the reduced activity level associated with these conditions.

However, it can also be connected with related dietary changes and prescribed medications you may be taking to address these health concerns.


There are several other lifestyle-related causes of constipation beyond simply what you eat. For instance, one major contributor to both constipation and piles is inactivity.Constipation is common during pregnancy and for the first six weeks or so after giving birth.

This is partly because of an increased production of the hormone progesterone, which causes your muscles to relax and lead to slower digestion. The extra weight of the baby pressing on your pelvis can also make bowel movements more difficult.

Toilet habits

Your bathroom habits can also play a role in causing constipation and piles, as well as other similar conditions. A couple of factors to be aware of are:

  • Frequently ignoring the urge to defecate – Over time, this can cause that feeling to disappear and also make your stools harder and drier (and therefore more difficult to pass).
  • Taking laxatives too often – Doing this for a prolonged period or frequently can make you dependent on them and raise your tolerance. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for you to have normal bowel movements without them.

Other medical conditions

Constipation can also be caused by other medical conditions, either directly or as a side effect of the medicine you take for them (such as certain antidepressants, iron supplements, and painkillers).

One of the most common examples of this is haemorrhoid constipation. Due to the fact that bowel movements can be painful when you have piles, some people put off defecating for fear that it will hurt.

Unfortunately, this can increase the chances of developing constipation, meaning in some cases piles can make you constipated as well as the other way around.

This is also true of anal fissure constipation, where fear of aggravating the tear or cut in the anus makes people reluctant to use the toilet.

In addition to medical conditions that affect the anus itself, colorectal problems, such as tumours and inflammatory bowel disease, can also lead to constipation. This is why it’s important to see a doctor if you have severe or long-lasting symptoms.

Symptoms Constipation

Most people think of constipation as a condition that means you can’t defecate. However, the symptoms are actually a bit broader than just being unable to poo. This is especially true if you have constipation and piles, anal fissure constipation, or another simultaneous medical condition.

Some of the most common signs of constipation include:

  • Defecating fewer than three times in a week
  • Passing stools that are large, hard, dry and/or lumpy
  • Feeling pain during bowel movements
  • Straining a lot when using the toilet
  • A feeling that not everything came out when you had a poo
  • Feeling as though your rectum is blocked
  • Stomach pain and/or cramping 
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite

In the case of constipation and piles and anal fissure constipation, you may also experience some bleeding when you defecate.

The number of times you have a bowel movement, and the length of time between them, varies greatly from person to person. That means it’s important to be aware of what is normal for you when assessing your symptoms.

Although it can feel uncomfortable, constipation is generally not a serious condition and only occurs occasionally. However, in some cases, it can become chronic, meaning it lasts for a long time or keeps coming back.

Either way, constipation can normally be treated with simple diet and lifestyle changes or the use of gentle laxatives (either over the counter or prescription).

Treatment Constipation

In most instances, constipation can be treated at home with a few simple diet and lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Starting your day with a warm drink
  • Not delaying using the toilet when you feel the need to defecate – even when you have constipation and piles or anal fissure constipation
  • Putting your feet on a low stool when using the toilet, and raising your knees above your hips if possible to make it easier to defecate
  • If possible, try to avoid stress or interruption when using the toilet
  • Adding a daily walk, run, or similar form of exercise to your routine

If diet and lifestyle changes don’t seem to be making any difference to your constipation after a few days, try speaking to a pharmacist. They may be able to recommend a suitable laxative you can try. However, bear in mind that these should only be used for a short period of time. 

For those who don’t notice an improvement after about three days, it’s wise to book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to diagnose your condition more accurately, check for other medical concerns, and perhaps prescribe stronger laxatives. 

Other treatment options include suppositories and a mini enema, where fluid is passed through the anus and into the bowel to help soften stool and clear any blockages. In cases of faecal impaction, a healthcare professional may need to remove the impacted waste manually or surgically.

How do you treat constipation with piles

It’s generally the case that constipation and piles can be treated in much the same way. In addition to the advice above, you can also try the following:

  • Bathing the anal area in warm water to ease itchiness
  • Using a clean cloth wrung out in ice water or cold compress to reduce pain and discomfort around the anus
  • If you have internal piles that pop out, gently push them back in

Prevention Constipation

If you’re not currently suffering from constipation and want to keep it that way, there are many easy steps you can take to help prevent the condition. The most effective include:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet that’s high in fibre
  • Drinking six to eight glasses of water every day
  • Exercising regularly
  • If you have a sedentary job, making an effort to get up and move around throughout the day
  • Cutting back on milk and other dairy products
  • Going to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need to defecate
  • Practicing techniques to manage stress, such as meditation and breathing exercises

Constipation FAQs

When should you go to the doctor for constipation?

Due to the fact that constipation is such a common condition, it can be difficult to determine when it’s necessary to see the doctor about it. Most of the time, constipation can be treated at home with alterations to your diet and lifestyle. However, if these fail to make a difference after a few days, then it’s worth booking an appointment. 

In addition, you should see your doctor straight away if you are constipated, and any of the following apply:

  • You are bloated for a long time
  • You have lost weight unexpectedly
  • You are suffering from fatigue
  • You notice blood in your stool
  • Your constipation keeps coming back and lasts a long time
  • You are in severe pain
  • Your symptoms are getting worse rather than better
  • You have a fever or are vomiting

Can constipation be a symptom of something worse?

In rare cases, constipation can be a symptom of a more serious condition, which is why it’s important to see your GP if you have any concerns. They will be able to diagnose whether you have a minor condition such as constipation and piles or anal fissure constipation or if there’s a risk of a disease such as colon cancer or anal cancer. Either way, early detection offers the best chance of a full and speedy recovery.

Can piles make you constipated?

Yes, it works both ways. Piles can make you constipateddue to fears of going to the toilet. Try not to let haemorrhoid constipationaffect your bowel movements too much. 

Can haemorrhoids block a bowel movement?

When you have haemorrhoid (piles), you may find that it makes bowel movements painful. It’s still entirely possible to poop with haemorrhoids; it just might feel a little painful or result in a small amount of bleeding.

Haemorrhoids will not normally block a bowel movement unless they are extremely swollen. However, piles may make defecating more difficult – particularly if they are large. The condition may also make you feel as though you still need to defecate after you’ve been.

How do you poop with haemorrhoids? 

If you want to poo while you have haemorrhoids, you need to drink plenty of fluids, eat fibre, wipe with damp toilet paper, exercise, and take a warm bath to ease the pain. You can also take paracetamol. Make sure not to spend too much time on the toilet. This will not help. 

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