What Causes Constipation and Fatigue?

Medically reviewed by Modern Weng, DO on April 11, 2016Written by Kathleen Pointer on April 11, 2016

Constipation and fatigue frequently occur together. A wide variety of conditions can cause these symptoms. The list includes many treatable conditions. However, the two symptoms can sometimes indicate a more serious problem.

Constipation and fatigue

Regular bowel movements vary depending on the person. Some people have a bowel movement every day, and others don’t. Keep track of what’s normal for you, so that you’ll notice if things change. Generally, though, you’re considered to have constipation if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week. Chronic constipation may cause straining and hard, lumpy stools. You may also feel bloated, feel full more easily, or have a decreased appetite.

Fatigue, too, is different for everyone. Fatigue that’s persistent and lacks an apparent cause is different than just being tired. Fatigue doesn’t seem to get better with rest.

It’s important to look at what other symptoms you may be experiencing, in addition to constipation and fatigue. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience dramatic weight loss or rectal bleeding along with fatigue and constipation. Together, these symptoms may be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as colon cancer.

What are some causes of constipation and fatigue?

Dehydration and nutritional issues may cause constipation and fatigue.

Medications are also a factor. Constipation is a common side effect of opioid pain medications and certain treatments for cancer. These treatments can also make you feel fatigued.

A number of medical conditions can cause both of these symptoms, such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • chronic pain
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • celiac disease
  • hypothyroidism
  • early pregnancy
  • sleep deprivation

Risk factors to consider

People who have CFS are more likely to have issues of IBS, which can sometimes cause constipation. This may alternate with diarrhea. You’re more at risk for CFS if you:

  • are in your 40s or 50s
  • have difficulty managing stress
  • are a woman

People who regularly use opioid medications are at an increased risk for constipation. Others who have an increased risk include people who:

  • are sedentary
  • have a thyroid imbalance
  • have mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression
  • have a low-fiber diet
  • are dehydrated

Speaking with your doctor

You should handle these symptoms individually if possible Your doctor will ask you about your medical history They’ll also ask about any other symptoms you may have and any medications that you’re taking. When discussing your fatigue, your doctor may also ask you questions related to your mental health.

You should handle these symptoms individually if possible Your doctor will ask you about your medical history They’ll also ask about any other symptoms you may have and any medications that you’re taking. When discussing your fatigue, your doctor may also ask you questions related to your mental health.

It’s helpful to come prepared. You should jot down a list of any of the other medical and physical problems you’ve been experiencing. You should take note of:

  • the frequency of your bowel movements
  • the color of your stool
  • the texture of your stool
  • the feel of your stool

Stools that are separate, hard lumps or are lumpy typically indicate constipation.

You should also note any feelings of fatigue that you may be experiencing. You may want to consider:

  • when you began feeling fatigued
  • how often you feel fatigued
  • how long the fatigue lasts

If your doctor suspects you may also have another condition, they may run more tests or refer you to a specialist. If you’re a woman of childbearing age, your doctor may also give you a pregnancy test to see if your symptoms are due to early pregnancy.

Prevention

Follow these tips to help prevent fatigue and constipation:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Eat regular servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink about eight glasses of water per day.

If you feel that your constipation and fatigue are the result of an underlying condition, speak with your doctor about how to best manage these symptoms and determine the cause.

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