Understanding Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

Constipation, a common yet often misunderstood condition, can affect people differently. Dr. Vincent Ho, a renowned gastroenterologist and university lecturer, offers us a comprehensive insight into this topic. In this article, we will delve into what constipation entails, its causes, symptoms, and potential solutions. Let’s explore the fascinating world of constipation.

1. What Is Constipation?

Constipation, as defined by Dr. Vincent Ho, refers to a situation where individuals experience infrequent bowel movements and have difficulty passing hard stools. These stools, or “poo” as it’s referred to in medical terms, are a result of water absorption and nutrient extraction within the small bowel. As the stools travel through the colon, they undergo transformations, ultimately leading to the formation of harder and more solid stool. But what happens when this natural process goes awry?

2. Slow Transit Constipation in Young Women

Dr. Ho highlights a specific type of constipation known as “slow transit constipation.” This condition is characterized by a delay in the passage of stools through the colon, leading to increased water absorption and the formation of hard, dry stools. Interestingly, young women are more susceptible to this condition, and it can persist into chronic constipation. Understanding this unique type of constipation is crucial in managing the condition.

3. The Role of Anal Sphincters in Defecation

Dr. Ho provides insight into the critical role played by anal sphincters in defecation. The internal anal sphincter, beyond our voluntary control, signals when the rectum is full. Meanwhile, the external anal sphincter, under our conscious control, determines the timing of bowel movements. In cases of “dysanergic defecation,” the coordination between these sphincters may be disrupted, leading to ineffective pushing or excessive straining.

4. Functional Constipation and Its Causes

Functional constipation, a prevalent form of constipation, is often linked to issues in the connection between the brain and the gut. Factors contributing to this condition include stress, lifestyle choices, diet, and physical inactivity. It’s a reminder that our bowel’s health relies on a delicate balance influenced by various factors.

5. Fiber, Hydration, and Exercise: Effective Solutions

Diet plays a significant role in constipation management. Dr. Ho emphasizes the importance of fiber, which can soften hard stools by holding onto water. Additionally, staying well-hydrated is essential since even a slight decrease in water content can lead to significantly thicker stools. Regular aerobic exercise is also beneficial for maintaining a healthy colon transit time.

6. Secondary Causes of Constipation

In some cases, constipation can be a consequence of secondary factors such as medication use, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, thyroid hormone imbalances, high calcium levels, or colon blockages. Awareness of these potential contributors is vital in diagnosing and treating constipation effectively.

7. Gender and Constipation

Constipation is observed more frequently in women than in men, with hormonal influences such as progesterone potentially contributing to these gender differences. Pregnancy can also bring about changes in the body, leading to increased water absorption, slower stool movement, and constipation.


In this enlightening exploration of constipation, Dr. Vincent Ho provides a comprehensive understanding of the condition, its causes, and potential solutions. By addressing factors such as slow transit constipation, the role of anal sphincters, and the impact of diet, hydration, and exercise, we gain valuable insights into managing and preventing constipation. This knowledge empowers individuals to take control of their gut health and lead more comfortable lives.

Understanding constipation is the first step toward finding effective solutions. Whether you’re seeking relief from this condition or simply interested in digestive health, the insights shared by Dr. Ho in this article offer a valuable resource for your journey.