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Constipation, Age 12 and Older (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Constipation can be treated at home.

  • First:
    • Try gentle exercise. Take a short walk each day. Gradually increase your walking time until you are walking for at least 20 minutes.
    • Make sure you drink enough fluids. Most adults should try to drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water or noncaffeinated beverages each day. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, which can increase dehydration. If you have heart failure or kidney failure, talk to your doctor about what amount of fluid is right for you.
    • Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day. Have a bran muffin or bran cereal for breakfast, and try eating a piece of fruit for a mid-afternoon snack.
    • Schedule time each day for a bowel movement (after breakfast, for example). Establishing a daily routine may help. Take your time. Do not be in a hurry.
  • Support your feet with a small step stool [about 6 in. (15 cm)] when you sit on the toilet. This will help flex your hips and place your pelvis in a more normal "squatting" position for having a bowel movement.
  • If you are still constipated:
    • Add some processed or synthetic fiber—such as Citrucel, Metamucil, or Perdiem—to your diet each day.
    • Try a stool softener, such as Colace, if your stools are very hard.
    • Try a rectal glycerin suppository. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use more often than recommended on the label.
  • Osmotic laxatives (such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, Milk of Magnesia, or Miralax) and nonabsorbable sugars (such as lactulose or sorbitol) hold fluids in the intestine. They also draw fluids into the intestine from other tissue and blood vessels. This extra fluid in the intestines makes the stool softer and easier to pass. Drink plenty of water when you use this type of laxative.
  • You may occasionally need to try a stimulant laxative, such as Ex-Lax or Feen-a-Mint. Use these preparations sparingly. Overuse of stimulant laxatives decreases the tone and sensation in the large intestine, causing dependence on using laxatives. Regular use may interfere with your body's ability to absorb vitamin D and calcium, which can weaken your bones. Do not use laxatives for longer than 2 weeks without consulting your doctor.
  • If you are still constipated, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before using an enema. Your doctor may need to check your symptoms or may suggest a different way to treat your constipation.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Constipation occurs or continues after 1 week of home treatment.
  • Rectal pain develops or increases.
  • Blood in the stool develops or increases.
  • Uncontrolled leakage of stool occurs.
  • Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

If you have any of these symptoms, you need to be evaluated by a doctor.

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