Constipation is a common issue among teenagers, often resulting from a combination of dietary, lifestyle, and psychological factors. Eating plenty of fiber, staying hydrated, and managing stress may help prevent it.

Most cases of constipation in teenagers are functional, meaning they do not stem from an underlying disease but rather from factors such as diet, hydration, and physical activity levels.

Teenagers may experience constipation regularly or hardly ever. Understanding what causes it and how to manage it by making healthy lifestyle choices can help alleviate the problem or avoid it altogether.

This article looks at the symptoms and causes of constipation in teenagers. It also discusses home remedies and preventive lifestyle choices.

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Some common indicators of constipation in teenagers include:

  • Infrequent bowel movements: Having fewer than three bowel movements per week commonly indicates constipation.
  • Abdominal pain: Teenagers may have discomfort or pain in the abdomen, which may be relieved by a bowel movement.
  • Anal discomfort: This can include pain from anal fissures or hemorrhoids, which may occur due to straining or passing hard stools.
  • Bloating: Teenagers with constipation may feel bloated.
  • Decreased appetite: Severe constipation may lead to a decrease in appetite due to feeling full or uncomfortable.
  • Difficulty passing stool: Straining during 25% of bowel movements indicates constipation.
  • Fatigue: Chronic constipation can contribute to tiredness or fatigue, which may be due to the discomfort it causes.
  • Hard, dry, or lumpy stools: Passing hard, dry, or lumpy stools more than 25% of the time indicates constipation.
  • Incomplete evacuation: People with constipation may feel like they have not fully emptied their bowels after a bowel movement.
  • Nausea: In some cases, constipation can cause nausea or a general feeling of being unwell.

Constipation can have many causes, including:

  • Dietary factors: Low fiber intake from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can contribute to constipation. Excessive consumption of processed foods, dairy, and meats may also contribute.
  • Hydration: Not drinking enough water can lead to harder stools that are difficult to pass.
  • Physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle may decrease bowel motility, leading to constipation.
  • Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, and depression can affect bowel habits.
  • Routine changes: Changes in daily routine, such as traveling or changing eating patterns, can affect bowel regularity.
  • Medications: Some medications, including certain antidepressants, iron supplements, and narcotics, can cause constipation.
  • Medical conditions: Though less common, underlying medical issues such as thyroid disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or diabetes can contribute to constipation.

Learn more about stress and constipation.

Teenagers can use laxatives safely under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Overuse or misuse of laxatives can lead to dependency and potentially harmful side effects.

Types of laxatives a doctor may prescribe include:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These are generally safe when taken with plenty of water. They help increase stool bulk and facilitate passage.
  • Osmotic laxatives: These draw water into the intestines to soften stool but can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances with improper use.
  • Stimulant laxatives: These stimulate bowel movements but can cause dependency and should not be used for long periods without medical supervision.
  • Stool softeners: These make stools easier to pass, and doctors may recommend them for short-term relief. They may be helpful when dietary changes and increased hydration do not improve constipation.

Laxatives are for short-term relief of constipation. A teenager — with the help of a caregiver, if necessary — should talk with a doctor before using them. Prolonged use without medical supervision can lead to dependency and worse bowel function over time.

Teenagers with constipation can try the following home remedies to manage and prevent the condition:

  • Increase fiber intake: Eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can increase dietary fiber, which helps form soft, bulky stools.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and noncaffeinated fluids can help keep stools soft.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity can increase muscle activity in the intestines, helping with bowel movements.
  • Establish a toilet routine: Teenagers should avoid ignoring the urge to empty their bowels. Establishing a regular bowel movement routine can improve constipation.
  • Limit processed foods: Reducing a person’s intake of processed, high fat foods and increasing healthy, high fiber foods can help them manage constipation.
  • Try warm liquids: Starting the day with warm liquids, such as herbal tea or warm water with lemon, can stimulate bowel movements.
  • Manage stress: Finding ways to manage stress and anxiety can help teenagers avoid constipation. Exercise, meditation, and talking through any problems may help.

A teenager should consider consulting a doctor if home remedies and lifestyle adjustments do not relieve their constipation. They should also speak with a doctor if they experience one or more of the following symptoms:

A doctor can help identify the cause of constipation and rule out more serious conditions.

The outlook for teenagers with constipation is generally very positive when they manage the condition with appropriate dietary and lifestyle measures.

Constipation is common among teenagers and may be due to a combination of lifestyle factors, such as a lack of fiber in the diet, inadequate hydration, and too little physical activity. Psychological factors, such as stress and depression, can also contribute.

To manage and help prevent constipation, teenagers can eat a nutritious diet, drink noncaffeinated drinks regularly throughout the day, get plenty of physical activity, and manage their stress.

If constipation persists, a teenager — and their caregiver, if necessary — should talk with a doctor who can rule out more serious causes.