What is Constipation?

Constipation is a common problem. It affects millions of people around the world Constipation makes it difficult to pass stool.

What Does Constipation Feel Like?

  • Stool that is small, hard or dry
  • Stool that is difficult to pass
  • Pain while passing stool
  • Belly pain, gas, or nausea
  • Passing stool only 1 or 2 times a week
  • Feeling like your bowel movement is not finished

Everyone has constipation sometimes. Different people experience constipation in different ways. You might not feel the same as someone else with constipation.

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation can happen for many reasons. For some people, more than one thing causes it.

  • Not eating enough fiber
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not moving the body enough
  • Taking certain medications
  • Having other medical conditions

When Should I See A Health Provider?

  • If you have constipation for weeks or months
  • If you see blood on the stool or toilet paper
  • If it is very painful for you to pass stool
  • If you are constipated and losing weight without trying

How Can I Prevent Constipation?

  • Eat more fiber (goal 20-35 grams a day)
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables, legumes
    • Whole Grains
  • Eat on a regular schedule
  • constipation
  • Drink more water (at least 2 liters a day)
  • Set up a regular, relaxing time for yourself to use the bathroom, in the morning after you wake up, or right after eating a meal
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the bathroom — don't rush!
  • Exercise – moving your body can help move the stool through your gut

How Can I Treat Constipation?

The following natural treatments might help with your constipation. If you take medications or have other medical problems, talk to your doctor about trying these treatments.

  • Fiber supplements
    • Psyllium
    • Flaxseed
    • Glucomannan
  • Laxatives – these can make the bowels move faster. There are different kinds of laxatives.
    • "osmotic" laxatives like magnesium work by helping pull water into the gut to make stools softer. These are very safe.
    • "stimulant" laxatives like senna work by causing the muscles in the gut to contract. These can work well but you can become dependent on them which is not healthy for you
  • Probiotics – bacteria that is friendly to the gut
    • Bifidobacterium animalis
    • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Biofeedback can help coordinate the muscles in your pelvic area to make it easier to pass stool
  • Acupuncture can sometimes help with constipation.

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Where Can I Get More Information?


Ba-Bai-Ke-Re MM, Wen NR, Hu YL, et al. Biofeedback-guided pelvic floor exercise therapy for obstructive defecation: an effective alternative. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(27):9162-9169.

Bharucha AE, Pemberton JH, Locke GR 3rd. American Gastroenterological Association technical review on constipation. Gastroenterology. 2013;144:218-238.

Constipation. c1995-2016. Stockton (CA): Therapeutic Research Faculty; [updated 13 Feb 2015; accessed 16 Apr 2016].

Mounsey A, Raleigh M, Wilson A. Management of constipation in older adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015;92(6):500-4.

Natural and Alternative Treatments: Constipation. c2016. White Plains (NY): EBSCO Information Services; [updated 15 Dec 2015; accessed 16 Apr 2016].

Wald A. Constipation. JAMA. 2016;315(2):214. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17991

Wald A. Constipation: Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2016;315(2):. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.16994.

Woodward S, Norton C, Chiarelli P. Biofeedback for treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(3):CD008486.

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