Fewer than three bowel movements a week is an indication of constipation. The stools are often hard, small and difficult to eliminate. Straining to pass stools causes pain, not only around the anus but also in the abdomen, which may be swollen and bloated. Often, people keep going back to the toilet, without results. Constipation can often be prevented, and if not preventable, it can usually be managed. It’s a symptom, not a disease, and is caused by many things. This list covers the most common.

1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome affects the large intestine or colon. It’s a chronic condition that needs to be managed by diet and exercise, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Constipation from IBS can be very uncomfortable. The body is unable to digest certain foods properly, especially highly refined products such as white bread, rice and cereals, and blockage results. Those experiencing IBS may find relief by consuming more fiber either through their diet or with supplements.