How Can I Reduce Constipation?

Reviewed on 6/9/2022
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You can reduce your chances of getting constipation by consuming enough fiber in the diet, eating less processed food, meat, and dairy which are all low in fiber; drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and taking a bowel movement when you feel the urge.

Constipation is a change in bowel habits that may mean stools are too hard or too small, difficult to pass, or infrequent (less than three times per week). Constipation may cause people to need to strain to empty their bowels or to have a sense the bowels are not empty.

You can reduce your chances of getting constipation by:

  • Consuming enough fiber in the diet
  • Eating less processed food, meat, and dairy which are all low in fiber
  • Drinking plenty of water 
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking a bowel movement when you feel the urge 

Once you have constipation, treatment to reduce it may include home remedies such as lifestyle changes, eating foods high in fiber, and using laxatives or enemas if needed.

  • Eat high fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, beans, and whole grains
    • Adults should aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day
    • If you are not used to consuming fiber, it may cause abdominal bloating and gas at first
    • Increase fiber intake slowly to minimize this side effect
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • Drink a beverage with caffeine in the morning 
  • Don’t ignore your body’s signals to have a bowel movement
    • If you feel like you have to go, do so, because ignoring the body’s signals can cause them to become weaker over time
  • Take laxatives if recommended by a doctor
    • Laxatives may help relieve constipation fast, within hours

If the above remedies do not help reduce constipation and cause you to have a bowel movement within a few days, call your doctor. 

Medications used to treat severe constipation include: 

Biofeedback is a behavioral approach that may help with severe chronic constipation in people who involuntarily squeeze (rather than relax) their muscles during a bowel movement.

What Are Symptoms of Constipation?

Symptoms of constipation include bowel movements that are:

  • Too hard
  • Too small
  • Difficult to pass
  • Occurring fewer than 3 times a week

Occasional constipation is normal. See a doctor if symptoms of constipation are:

  • New (a change from the normal pattern)
  • Severe
  • Last longer than three weeks
  • Associated with other concerning signs of a more serious problem:

What Causes Constipation?

Causes of constipation include:

Reviewed on 6/9/2022
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