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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2014-07-24 (EDT)


Causes Food Reactions, Lack of movement, Posture, Stress, Prescription Medications
See Also Digestive Conditions, Diarrhea
Books Books on Digestive and Liver Conditions
Articles Articles on Digestive Conditions

Constipation is defined as having 3 or less bowel movements per week. It typically is not chronic nor serious but can be. The causes of and effective treatments for constipation can vary based on age and activity level.

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. Constipation may be a symptom of another condition or it may be caused by a variety of factors with lifestyle factors being prominent. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to constipation.


  • The dietary factors most commonly associated with constipation include:
  • Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to the problem.
  • Disturbed sleep is associated with constipation and other bowel issues such as IBS.[2]
  • Poor posture can impact the movement of the stool through the colon.


  • Emotional stress, especially anxiety or holding in of emotions can contribute to constipation.


  • Breathing dysfunction can impact bowel function.
  • Quitting smoking can contribute to constipation.[3]

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications
  • * Medications that can cause constipation include: pain medications, antacids, calcium channel blockers, antiparkinson drugs, antispasmodics, antidepressants, diuretics, anticonvulsants.
  • Natural Health Products
  • Calcium and iron supplementation can constipate, particularly if taken in a poorly absorbed form or if taken in a dose in excess of what the body can absorb. Mineral chelates (gluconate, picolinate, glycinate) are generally more absorbable than the sulfate or oxide forms.
  • Chronic laxative use can suppress the body's natural peristalsis, leading to significant rebound constipation when the laxatives are discontinued.


  • Insufficient production or release of digestive secretions can cause constipation.

Common Questions

  • How many times per week do you have a bowel movement?
  • When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
  • Is it difficult to pass?
  • Do you strain?
  • Does the movement feel complete?
  • What are the stools like?
  • Consistency?
  • Size?

Diagnostic Testing

  • Constipation is diagnosed by taking the case history.
  • In chronic cases a colonoscopy may be used to rule out any underlying condition.

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Constipation is associated with a number of conditions including:

  • Other Digestive Conditions:
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction
  • Other Conditions

Naturopathic Treatment

Article Management of Opioid-Induced Constipation, NDNR; 2013 January

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Constipation is typically an acute condition that can be treated effectively.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

The following may help to re-establish bowel regularity.[4]

  • Never repress an urge to defecate.
  • Sit on the toilet at the same time every day (even when the urge to defecate is not present) preferably immediately after breakfast or exercise.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • In middle-aged inactive individuals with symptoms of chronic constipation, regular physical activity can improve and promote more normal bowel movements.[5]
  • Addressing any postural issues may assist with improved bowel function.
  • Proper lower abdominal breathing can decrease the severity and frequency of chronic constipation.
  • Addressing any underlying sleep disorders can result in improved bowel function. Sleeping the first part of the night on the right side, and later half on the left may be beneficial.[6]
  • Relaxation is an important factor with respect to normal bowel function.

Naturopathic Therapies

Naturopathic Therapies for constipation include:

  • Note: Consult a doctor before using any laxatives or enemas.
  • A recent meta-analysis suggests that acupuncture and moxibustion is not only effective at treating constipation, but may be more effective than treatment with medications.[12]
  • Constitutional hydrotherapy can be effective for chronic constipation.
  • Osteopathic treatments can be very helpful in the treatment of chronic constipation.
  • Other Therapies
  • Biofeedback is an effective treatment for chronic constipation.[13]

Specialized Naturopathic Therapies

Specialized therapies that are used to treat constipation include:

  • Colon Therapy can be an effective treatment for chronic constipation.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. Syrigou EI, Pitsios C, Panagiotou I, Chouliaras G, Kitsiou S, Kanariou M, Roma-Giannikou E (Sep 2011) Food allergy-related paediatric constipation: the usefulness of atopy patch test. Eur J Pediatr;170(9):1173-8. PMID: 21347849.
  2. Gwee KA (Apr 2011) Disturbed sleep and disturbed bowel functions: implications for constipation in healthy individuals. J Neurogastroenterol Motil;17(2):108-9. PMID: 21602986.
  3. Hajek P, Gillison F, McRobbie H (Nov 2003) Stopping smoking can cause constipation. Addiction;;98(11):1563-7. PMID: 14616182.
  4. Murray Michael (1996) Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, The Essential Guide for Improving Your Health Naturally Prima Publishing
  5. De Schryver AM, Keulemans YC, Peters HP, Akkermans LM, Smout AJ, De Vries WR, van Berge-Henegouwen GP (Apr 2005) Effects of regular physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation. Scand J Gastroenterol;40(4):422-9. PMID: 16028436.
  6. Fraser JR (Jun 1923) The Importance of Posture in the Prevention and Treatment of Constipation. Can Med Assoc J;13(6):449. PMID: 20314724.
  7. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.
  8. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser (2010) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  9. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2004) The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Robert Rose, Toronto
  10. Hershoff Asa (2000) Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  11. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth (1997) Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing
  12. Du WF, Yu L, Yan XK, Wang FC (2012 Jan) Met-analysis on randomized controlled clinical trials of acupuncture and moxibustion on constipation] Zhongguo Zhen Jiu; Vol32(1):92-6 PMID: 2229584.
  13. Koh D, Lim JF, Quah HM, Tang CL (Jun 2012) Biofeedback is an effective treatment for patients with dyssynergic defaecation. Singapore Med J;53(6):381-4. PMID: 22711036.