Constipation is infrequent and/or uncomfortable bowel movements. Stool is often hard and dry. It is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States and accounts for 2 million annual visits to the doctor.
Talk to your doctor about what is a normal frequency of bowel movements for you. The range of normal is quite broad. Some people have several stools a day; others have one stool every several days.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Eat a healthful, balanced diet that is high in fiber (unprocessed bran, whole-wheat grains, fresh fruit, and cereals). Limit your intake of processed and fatty foods.
Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
Taking Laxatives, Stool Softeners, or Glycerin Suppositories
Regularly using laxatives or enemas can be habit forming. Your bowels can become accustomed to these products and require them in order to produce a stool. Stool softeners, though, are not habit-forming. Ask your doctor about how often and for how long to use these products.
Examples of medications include:
Polyethylene glycol 3350 (eg, MiraLax)—a type of laxative
Lactulose (eg, Cephulac, Enulose, Generlac, Kristalose)—a type of laxative
Lubiprostone (eg, Amitra)—a medication that increases fluid in stool
Tegaserod (eg, Miralax)—a medication that brings fluids to the colon
Cochicine—medication used to treat gout; sometimes used for constipation
Botulism injections—may be used to treat certain types of constipation
Prucalopride (eg, Reslolor)—not currently approved but showing promise in clinical trials
Cisapride—only available as an investigational drug
Set aside the same time each day to move your bowels. Typically this works best after breakfast and coffee. Sit on the toilet for 15-20 minutes. Over time your body will learn to have regular bowel movements at the same time each day.
works by attaching sensors to the body. A therapist helps you understand your body’s signals and then you use them to help you move your bowels.
Treating Underlying Medical Conditions
Work with your doctor to treat other conditions that may be causing your constipation.
If you're taking medication that causes constipation, ask your doctor for an alternative.
If you are taking opioids to relieve pain, you may have constipation. A study found that the medication
(Relistor) can rapidly relieve this side effect.
If you are diagnosed with constipation, follow your doctor's
To reduce your chance of getting constipation:
Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fiber.
Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
In an effort to train your bowels, schedule a time daily to sit on the toilet just after a meal.
Don't rush yourself when using the bathroom.
If you feel the urge to defecate, listen to your body.
*6/25/2008 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Thomas J, Karver S, Cooney GA, et al. Methylnaltrexone for opioid-induced constipation in advanced illness.
N Engl J Med.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a