Constipation Symptoms
How to Know for Sure

By Alana Sibley

Educate Yourself

What is constipation?

Do you have constipation symptoms? The first step in knowing for sure if you are experiencing constipation is to know what constipation is.

Constipation is characterized by stool that is hard and difficult to pass, with fewer than three bowel movements a week, and it might feel like there is more stool that won't come out. 

Establish your bowel patterns

Constipation occurs when a person is unable to have regular bowel movements. Different people have different bowel movement experiences. More than that, each individual will experience variations in their own stools from time to time.

What is normal? It may be anywhere from two or three BMs per week down to two or three each day. So the real question is, what is normal for you?

Keep a journal

Journal daily health information to track bowel movements. This is the best way to establish your pattern of movements.

Key factors to log are bladder and bowel moments, constipation symptoms and pain levels, log foods and find triggers.

Track all of your medications, vitamins, and supplements.  Keep up with exercise activities, track sleep patterns, and stress levels along with stress triggers.

Phone Apps

There are several handy apps that allow you to track your bowel movements that will help you establish bowel patterns.

  • Bowel Tracker Pro for IPhone/IPad is a good tracking tool that tracks your digestion and health habits that is free.

  • PoopLog is a fantastic app for Android that allows for tracking of BMs using the 7 types of stool on the Bristol Scale. With this free application you can write what you see or store a photograph.
    PoopLog also has an option to send a text file to your doctor for analysis.

Phone in the bathroom?

You might think the bathroom is the last place you want to take your phone.

However, people today take their phone with them everywhere, and the bathroom is no exception. People have been taking their cell phones into public restrooms ever since the cell phone was invented.

It is at home that you have to get your phone on board when duty calls. These phone apps are highly recommended as an easy way to track bathroom habits and constipation symptoms, to allow you to better care for your digestive system.

Distinguish Myth from Fact

Just because you suddenly have fewer bowel movements doesn't always mean there is a problem. However, there may be a problem is the change is significant from what is normal for you.


Constipation is dry, hard stool that is difficult to expel because it is stuck in the lower intestine.


Some individuals are convinced they have a problem with constipation when they don't defecate daily.

But not everyone goes each and every day. You simply need to know for yourself what your normal is! As long as you go at least 3 times a week, and it is soft and easy to pass, it is normal.

Know What Can Cause Constipation

Diet, stress, drugs, disease, and even social and cultural patterns can affect bowel function. Many people believe by eating a healthy diet, getting an appropriate amount of exercise and drinking enough to stay hydrated, will keep them from experiencing constipation.

In reality, you can maintain all those points and still have problems with constipation. There are heart wounds that can bring ongoing constipation problems. Things like the death of a loved one, parents being separated or divorced, or physical or sexual abuse are possible contributing factors to diminished bowel activity.

Depression is another trigger for constipation. Medicines and medical problems may both result in symptoms of constipation. An example is constipation that comes when thyroid hormone levels are too low.

What Does Constipation Look Like?

Stools have many different changes in the frequency, consistency, and volume of bowel movements. The same is true of the color, size, and consistency of stool. You need to be familiar with the many different faces of stool to recognize actual constipation symptoms.

Bristol Stool Scale

Here is a chart that is a medical aid designed to classify the form of human feces into seven categories

The seven types of stool are:

Type 1: Small individual hardened pieces of stool, not easily passed 

Type 2: Looks like a long lumpy, hardened sausage

Type 3: Still like sausage but cracked because of dryness

Type 4: Like one long, soft, smooth sausage, easy to pass

Type 5: Separate well defined, easy to pass blobs of stool

Type 6: This is more a non-formed mush, yet is a breeze to pass

Type 7: This is basically diarrhea, almost totally a liquid

  • Types 1–3 are dry and hardened, indicating constipation.

  • Types 4 through 6 are a good goal. They are easy to pass, but don't contain excessive liquid. Type 6 has contains more liquid, so staying hydrated is important when this type of stool is passed.

  • Type 7 is too watery, not at all a formed stool.

Learn Constipation Symptoms

Sometimes, people think that symptoms like a poor appetite, a feeling of fatigue, nausea or discomfort in the tummy are all signs of constipation. But this might not always be the case. Sometimes these symptoms are caused by other things. 

It is important to know what kind of constipation you are experiencing, functional, latent, or organic constipation.

While occasional constipation is quite normal and temporary it rarely causes medical problems, chronic constipation could be the consequence of a bigger medical problem.

That is why it is so important to know for sure if constipation is what you are actually experiencing.

Functional constipation 

This condition is reversible, and may be caused by any of the following

  • A medication you are taking
  • Following a course of antibiotics
  • Food poisoning
  • Extended bed rest

  • Undergoing a colonoscopy
  • The aftermath of a surgical procedure
  • A time of extra stress

You don't go as frequently as you should, you have to strain in order to defecate, and your stool fits type one to three on the Bristol Stool Scale.

Functional constipation can cause intestinal flora to be damaged. It can also interrupt the wavelike contractions of the colon that move waste along.

Fiber and laxatives are mostly prescribed to relieve this type of constipation. A magnesium supplement, or a product like Philips Milk of Magnesia or Epson Salt can be quite helpful. Magnesium draws more liquid into the stool, lubricating it and keeping the stool from drying out. Taking a daily magnesium supplement offers numerous other benefits, too.

Latent constipation

In time, functional constipation becomes latent constipation. Latent constipation is considered hidden. 

It is hidden because the thing that is being taken for constipation, whether laxative or fiber, convinces you that your bowels are back to normal.

If the flora in the intestines and proper contractions of the colon aren't properly restored following a bout with functional constipation, bowel movements are bigger in diameter and more difficult to pass, requiring even more straining for elimination.

However, when you keep having fairly regular bowel movements and don't experience excessive discomfort, it is easy to become convinced that all is well.

But it isn't.

If allowed to continue on, it will take you to the next level of constipation - organic.

Organic constipation

Sadly, this type of constipation can't be reversed. It happens as over-sized stools stretch the bowel even further and elongate internal hemorrhoids.

As the bowel is stretched, the anal canal becomes even more narrow, pretty much completely putting out of commission the nerves in the anus and rectum.

Now the passage of stool comes almost to a complete stop, and there is no more urge to go. Defecation requires the use of laxatives and takes excessive straining.

If this has happened to you, it may be possible to regain normal bowel movements by taking a daily mineral supplement containing a good amount of magnesium.

The extra water drawn into the colon not only helps keep stools soft but creates a hydraulic effect to help force the stool from the colon.

Constipation Solutions

No matter the symptoms you experience or the kind of constipation that you have, there are solutions to relieving your constipation.  

  • If dehydrated, increase your water intake

  • Develop a routine exercise plan

  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially raw ones

  • Take a mineral supplement rich in magnesium

Conclusion, constipation symptoms

There are numerous constipation symptoms. Positively identifying that the problem truly is constipation gives a greater certainty that what is needed is a constipation solution.

(Return from Constipation Symptoms to Signs of Constipation)

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