Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation?

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Dec:57 Suppl 2:S88-95. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601907.


Constipation defined as changes in the frequency, volume, weight, consistency and ease of passage of the stool occurs in any age group. The most important factors known to promote constipation are reduced physical activity and inadequate dietary intake of fibres, carbohydrates and fluids. Fluid losses induced by diarrhoea and febrile illness alter water balance and promote constipation. When children increase their water consumption above their usual intake, no change in stool frequency and consistency was observed. The improvement of constipation by increasing water intake, therefore, may be effective in children only when voluntary fluid consumption is lower-than-normal for the child's age and activity level. In the elderly, low fluid intake, which may be indicative of hypohydration, was a cause of constipation and a significant relationship between liquid deprivation from 2500 to 500 ml per day and constipation was reported. Dehydration is also observed when saline laxatives are used for the treatment of constipation if fluid replacement is not maintained and may affect the efficacy of the treatment. While sulphate in drinking water does not appear to have a significant laxative effect, fluid intake and magnesium sulphate-rich mineral waters were shown to improve constipation in healthy infants. In conclusion, fluid loss and fluid restriction and thus de-or hypohydration increase constipation. It is thus important to maintain euhydration as a prevention of constipation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cathartics / adverse effects
  • Cathartics / therapeutic use
  • Constipation / epidemiology*
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Dehydration / physiopathology*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Drinking / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Cathartics
  • Dietary Fiber