Myths and Misconceptions about Chronic Idiopathic Constipation

February 15 2021

Chronic idiopathic constipation, or functional constipation, is a frequent reason for seeking healthcare and referral to speciality care. Despite new knowledge there is still a lot of confusion and many misconceptions regarding the condition and its treatment.

Infographic  73761 Publication Highlight_There is a misconception  that chronic idiopathic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation IBS-C are distinct conditions-01

In this article by Staller and Brooks, the authors highlight 9 common misconceptions or myths about chronic idiopathic constipation, also called functional constipation, with focus on diagnosis and treatment.

Misconception 1

Frequency of bowel movement is the most important criteria for establishing a diagnosis of chronic idiopathic constipation.

– There is a wide variation in normal frequency of bowel movement.


Misconception 2

Chronic idiopathic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) are distinct conditions.

– It is the symptoms that are important for the patient, not the specific diagnosis.


Misconception 3.

Colonoscopy is required for the evaluation of chronic idiopathic constipation.

– Colonoscopy is required if any alarm features exist.


Misconception 4.

Chronic idiopathic constipation is due to delayed colonic transit.

– Most patients with chronic idiopathic constipation have a normal transit time.


Misconception 5.

All bloating is due to constipation.

– Some patients may have a mismatch between gut sensory perception and volume mediating reflexes or an overgrowth of methane producing organisms.


Misconception 6.

Most chronic idiopathic constipation can be corrected with lifestyle changes.

– Data suggest that few patients with chronic idiopathic constipation benefit from lifestyle changes, such as physical activity and increased fluid intake.


Misconception 7.

All fibre is created equal.

– Only 2 fibres have shown a positive effect on chronic idiopathic constipation.


Misconception 8.

A daily bowel movement is the goal of constipation treatment.

– It is a myth that a daily bowel movement is healthier than other frequencies.


Misconception 9.

Surgery is curative for chronic idiopathic constipation.

– Only a few, well-selected patients with chronic idiopathic constipation benefit from surgery.

Download the publication highlight: Staller & Brooks, Am J Gastroenterol 2020

Topics: Bowel dysfunction, constipation