Acute Constipation

Banishing acute constipation once and for all. While some individuals experience constipation on an ongoing basis, acute constipation is constipation that appears suddenly, without previous constipation problems.

Because it is a new symptom for the individual, the possibility of it being caused by a new medical condition (like cancer) should not be taken lightly. If constipation comes suddenly and quickly becomes chronic, it may call for a trip to the doctor’s office.

That being said, there are many triggers that can lead to acute constipation. Some of the most common triggers are explained below.

Causes of Acute Constipation

Fast food

Fast food is a common cause of acute constipation, mostly because it is made from processed food that is difficult for the body to digest. In addition, fast food is most often low in fiber, and high in sugar and salt.

When traveling, or when a busy day or two leaves an individual turning to fast food, it may soon be followed by acute constipation.

An insufficient amount of fiber

The average adult needs between 25-38 grams of fiber per day, but receive closer to 15 grams. Even a few consecutive days of insufficient amounts of fiber can lead to uncomfortable constipation and strained bowel movements. 

Fiber can be increased by eating more whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.


A common side effect of many prescriptions is constipation. Even if a prescription is only needed on a short-term basis, it can throw off the internal balance within the body. 

Even some vitamins and minerals, like too much calcium, can lead to constipation.

Taking an over-the-counter laxative

As strange as it may sound, over-the-counter laxatives can lead to further constipation. 

Over-the-counter laxatives are mostly stimulant laxatives that irritate the colon muscles to contract. Taken for an extended period of time, the body can become dependent on stimulant laxatives to stimulate peristalsis, the wavelike contracting motions of the colon that moves waste along.

It can cause the colon to become lazy, leading to more constipation.

waterfall - acute constipation


The average adult needs a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. However, many adults drink mostly other beverages that don’t do much to help with hydration. Proper hydration cannot be achieved from beverages such as coffee, soda, and sugar-filled liquids.

If an individual has recently changed their intake of fluids to those that do not hydrate, acute constipation may result. Proper hydration can be achieved from:

  • Water
  • Carbonated Water
  • Fresh Squeezed Juice
  • Fruit
  • Herbal Tea
  • Electrolyte Filled Beverages

However, water is the primary source required for sufficient hydration. If plain water seems boring, it can be flavored with lemons, limes, fruit, and mint.

A lack of magnesium

Many of us don’t get enough of the important mineral magnesium in our diets. 

Sometimes a sudden change in diet results in our magnesium consumption to drop even lower. Since insufficient magnesium in the diet is a known cause of constipation, this may result in acute constipation.

Magnesium serves as a muscle relaxant. It is the mineral that balances out the tendency of calcium to make muscles tense. When a person starts on a calcium supplement (including antacids), it can throw the body out of balance. 

Taking supplemental magnesium can help to restore this balance. This is especially important to the bowels, which are composed mostly of muscle.

Magnesium also functions as an osmotic laxative that draws water into the colon. This helps keep stool moist, soft and slick, making defecation easier. Adding a magnesium supplement to the diet may be just what is needed to solve an acute constipation problem.

Missing a bowel movement

Sometimes it happens. We eat a meal that is unfriendly to our colon, and it causes us to miss a regular bowel movement. 

When stool spends extra time in the colon, the colon’s natural action of extracting moisture tends to cause the stool to become dry and hard. This can mean some straining and pain the next day when it comes time for elimination.

Conclusion, acute constipation

When constipation comes suddenly, it is important to keep a close eye on it, since it could be caused by an undiagnosed medical condition.

However, in most cases it is due to a change in lifestyle. Check with the guidelines given above to see if your acute constipation is due to a lifestyle change.

(Return from Acute Constipation to What is Constipation)

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