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
- 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:
What Causes Constipation?
Causes of constipation include:
- Poor diet
- Low fiber intake
- Digestive problems
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Antiepileptic drugs
- Iron preparations
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Antihypertensive drugs
- Anti-Parkinsonian agents (anticholinergic or dopaminergic)
- Anorectal problems
- Endocrine or metabolic disorders
- Neurologic disorders
- Myogenic disorders
- Chronic idiopathic constipation