According to the majority of health experts a healthy bowel movement rates in a healthy person vary from three times per day to three times per week. Frequency, quantity, color, shape and hardness of stools usually greatly varies and depends on several factors such as diet, amount of fluid intake, menstruation cycle, stress, traveling, etc. Constipation is when having less bowel movements than normal – according to the definition of constipation when having less than three bowel movements per week.
The primal cause of constipation is excessive absorption of water in the colon or slow contractions of colon’s muscle which causes hard, dry and difficult to pass stools.
Factors which cause excessive hardness or stools and too slow transit:
– Inadequate intake of fibers
– Inadequate fluid intake
– Inadequate physical activity
– Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement or suppressing defecation
– Change of environment (traveling)
– Laxative abuse
– Certain medications such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, antispasmodics, opioids and antacids
– Hypothyroidism (insufficient production of thyroid hormone)
– Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome
– Neurological disorders
Constipation is commonly temporary and bowel movement frequency can be increased by smaller changes of lifestyle and diet. However, constipation sometimes indicates more serious medical conditions including colorectal cancer. If constipation persists despite changing lifestyle and diet, if having bloody or black stools, severe abdominal pain, alternation of constipation and diarrhea or if constipation is accompanied with vomiting and unexplained weight loss you should visit your health care provider immediately.