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Constipation is a condition of the digestive system and is one of the most common digestive complaints. It occurs when a person has trouble having bowel movements, and experiences hard stool or feces that are difficult to pass, causing you to strain. The bowel movements may be extremely painful, and in severe cases lead to symptoms of bowel obstruction. As food passes through your digestive tract, your body takes nutrients and water from the food. This process creates a stool, which is moved through your intestines with muscle contractions. A number of things can affect this process, but most cases of constipation are caused by a low fiber diet or dehydration. Other causes may be hormonal, anatomical, a side effect of medications, especially antidepressants and opiates, improper mastication (chewing) of food, and more severe illnesses or disorders. Self-treatment can start with a change in dietary and exercise habits. Constipation is usually easier to prevent than to treat, however, seek professional help if you have chronic constipation (symptoms present for more than 3 months at least 3 days per month). Unless the condition is severe, alternative and traditional medicine use colonic irrigation, enemas, exercise, diet and herbs to treat constipation.