Diverticulitis can cause constipation. Research suggests that constipation is not a risk factor for diverticulitis.
Constipation is a symptom of diverticulitis. There is little evidence that constipation causes diverticulitis. Low-grade inflammation and frequent bowel movements may be bigger risk factors for diverticular disease.
This article examines the link between constipation and diverticulitis, treatment and prevention tips for constipation, and when to see a doctor.
Some theories suggest constipation and straining to make bowel movements may cause pressure inside the colon. This pressure causes the pouches, or diverticula, in diverticulosis to form. Diverticulitis occurs if the diverticula become inflamed.
According to 2020 research, more frequent bowel movements, rather than constipation, may be associated with diverticulitis. This may be due to:
- increased time sitting on a toilet, which may strain the colon
- increased bowel movements altering the gut microbiome, which may increase the risk of diverticulitis
- frequent bowel movements indicating chronic low-grade inflammation, which may increase the risk of diverticulitis
Constipation may cause:
fewer than threebowel movements a week
- straining or difficulty passing stools
- painful bowel movements
- stools that are dry, hard, or lumpy
- a feeling of incomplete bowel movements
Symptoms of diverticulitis include:
Diverticulitis may cause severe and sudden abdominal pain, or it may feel mild and worsen over
Treatment for constipation
- increasing fiber in the diet
- taking a fiber supplement
- drinking more fluids
- getting regular physical exercise
Bowel training may also help treat constipation by teaching the body to make bowel movements at the same time each day. People can aim to have a bowel movement 15-45 minutes after eating.
It is important to allow enough time to have a bowel movement. A person can try to relax and place their feet on a footstool for comfort and to prevent straining.
Biofeedback therapy can also help people retrain the muscles involved in bowel movements, to become more regular.
If diet and lifestyle changes are ineffective, a doctor may recommend taking over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives or medications that can ease constipation, such as:
- osmotic agents, such as MiraLAX or milk of magnesia
- stool softeners, such as Colace or Docusate
- lubricants, such as mineral oil
- stimulants, such as Correctol or Dulcolax
If these are ineffective, a doctor may prescribe medication such as:
- lubiprostone, which increases fluid in the digestive tract to soften stools and increase bowel movements
- linaclotide or plecanatide, which helps create regular bowel movements in people with long-term constipation
- prucalopride, which helps the colon to move stool for bowel movements in people with long-term constipation
People can also talk with a doctor if they think any medications or supplements they are taking may be causing constipation.
A doctor may recommend other tests if constipation does not respond to first-line treatments or there are other concerning symptoms.
A healthy diet and lifestyle habits
- getting regular exercise
- drinking plenty of water throughout the day
- aiming to have a bowel movement at the same time each day, such as after a meal
Eating a high fiber diet may help prevent constipation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends around
Good sources of fiber include:
- fruit–especially cooked prunes and dried figs
- beans and legumes
- cereal–especially bran cereals
- whole grain bread
- nuts and nut butter
People must contact a doctor if they have constipation with
- rectal bleeding
- blood in stool
- constant abdominal pain
- unable to pass gas
- lower back pain
- unintentional weight loss
Contact a doctor if constipation does not improve with home treatments or if people have a family history of rectal or colon cancer.
People should also talk with a doctor if they have symptoms of diverticulitis. People must seek urgent medical care if they have diverticulitis and experience:
These symptoms may indicate serious complications which will require immediate medical treatment.
Constipation can be a symptom of diverticulitis. Previous theories suggested that constipation may play a role in causing diverticulitis. However, recent research suggests that this is not the case.
Treatment for constipation may include increasing fiber intake, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular physical exercise. These steps may also help to prevent constipation.
If people have severe constipation or home remedies are not effective, people can contact a doctor who may prescribe fiber supplements or medications to increase bowel movements.