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What is Atonic Gut & How is it Treated, Prevented?

Constipation is a common problem amongst the vast majority of population. There are different kinds of constipations, owing to different causes. Amongst the different kinds, one type of constipation is the Atonic Gut.

What is Atonic Gut & How is it Treated, Prevented?

What is Atonic Gut?

When the muscles of the gut or colon are not properly toned or are not strong enough, it becomes a hindrance for the bowel movement. Thus, constipation is caused and this is known as the Atonic Gut. Often it is also referred to as the lazy gut. As a consequence, the stomach is not properly emptied and therefore, heartburn becomes constant.

What Causes Atonic Gut?

The exact reason behind atonic gut is not clearly known. However, it is often attributed to a number of factors, such as –

  • Excessive use of laxatives for a prolonged period
  • Hirschsprung’s disease that refers to a blockage in the large intestine, owing to poor muscle movement.
  • It must be mentioned here that the Hirschsprung’s disease is a congenital condition, which means that you cannot develop it or acquire it. It is a condition that is present from the birth.

Laxatives and Atonic Gut

Laxatives contain irritants that stimulate the bowel muscle. Thus, bowel movement is bettered. Prolonged use of laxatives develops a tolerance. Therefore, in order to get the same effect, even larger quantities of laxatives need to be consumed. As a consequence, the muscles lose their tone. Thus, laxative addiction can lead to Atonic Gut and chronic constipation.

Symptoms of Atonic Gut

The very basic symptom of atonic gut is chronic constipation. However, along with that, there are some other symptoms as well. These include –

If these symptoms are encountered along with constipation, the doctor must be visited at once, before the condition aggravates or leads to other difficulties.

What to Talk to the Doctor?

Discussing the bathroom habits with the doctor can be a difficult task. Yet, you need to be frank with the doctor and not hide anything. Be prepared to answer the following questions to the doctor –

  • How frequently do you have bowel movement?
  • Is there any change in the bowel movement frequency?
  • Is there any change in the ease of bowel movement?
  • Do you feel the stomach is emptied after bowel movement?
  • Is there any change in the bowel bulk?

The doctor might also ask you about other problems and conditions such as depression, mood swings, insomnia or sleeping pattern, energy levels or even thyroid levels etc. This is because chronic constipation can be caused by a number of other reasons as well.

Treatment for Atonic Gut

Treating Atonic Gut is a little tricky and difficult as compared to other types of constipation. This is because, laxatives that are used as a treatment method for other constipations, is the cause of constipation in this case. Hence, laxative is not a choice for treating atonic gut. The doctors will rather suggest –

  • Enemas
  • Bowel restraining
  • Biofeedback, which is a method of relaxing your muscles through some sensations.

Preventing Atonic Gut:

As already mentioned, if the cause of atonic gut is Hirschsprung’s disease, there is no way you can prevent it, as Hirschsprung’s disease is a congenital condition. However, the other preventive measures that are useful are –

  • Listening to nature’s call and not suppressing it. Bowels are most active in the morning and after the meals. Responding to the physiological calls by passing stool at this time is the most beneficial one.
  • Do not indulge in taking too much of laxatives or build a laxative addiction. Always consult a doctor before taking laxatives.
  • Have enough fibre in the food, which will act as a natural laxative and help in the bowel movement. Fibre increases the weight of the stool, helping in the gravitational pull.

However of course, consulting a doctor, doing exercise and getting rid of the sedentary lifestyle will always help in having a comfortable and smooth bowel movement.


  1. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD): Chronic Constipation. https://www.iffgd.org/other-disorders/chronic-constipation.html
  2. Cedars-Sinai: Constipation. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/constipation.html
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 31, 2023

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