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Constipation, Age 12 and Older (cont.)

Prevention

You can prevent constipation.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water.
  • Add high-fiber foods to your diet. Try to get 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Packaged foods and fiber supplements include the amount of fiber content in the nutrition information. You should increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly so that your stomach can adjust to the change. Adding too much fiber too quickly may cause stomach upset and gas.
    • Eat at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit a day. Choose whole fruit instead of fruit juice.
    • Eat at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Increase the amount of high-fiber foods, such as bran flakes, bran muffins, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, and lentils. Eat brown rice, bulgur, or millet instead of white rice.
    • Use whole wheat bread instead of white bread. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals; buy bread that lists whole wheat, stone-ground wheat, or cracked wheat in the ingredients.
    • Snack on unbuttered, unsalted popcorn.
    • Add 2 Tbsp of wheat bran to cereal or soup. If you do this, start slowly with 1 tsp a day. Gradually increase the amount to 2 Tbsp a day.
    • Mix 2 Tbsp of psyllium (found in Metamucil and other bulk-forming agents) with a fluid, and drink it.
  • Avoid alcohol beverages. They can increase dehydration.
  • Exercise more. A walking program would be a good start. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
  • Set aside relaxing times for having bowel movements. Urges usually occur sometime after meals. Establishing a daily routine for bowel movements, such as after breakfast, may help.
  • Go when you feel the urge. Your bowels send signals when a stool needs to pass. If you ignore the signal, the urge will go away, and the stool will eventually become dry and difficult to pass.

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