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Questions your patients may have about constipation

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Constipation is a subject few like to talk about, although it affects us all at one time or another. Constipation can be serious but even when it's not, it can be uncomfortable and frustrating.

Constipation or irregularity occurs when a person's bowel movements become difficult or when they happen less frequently than normal. Normal stools are soft and formed, and passed without straining. Normal frequency is, of course, different for everyone. Some people go once or twice a day, others three times a week — all completely normal if that number of trips to the bathroom is your regular routine.

You can experience a variety of symptoms beyond just difficulty going to the bathroom. Other symptoms may include abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating. You might also feel symptoms that may not seem to have anything to do with your digestive system, such as fatigue, achiness, and irritability.

Your digestive system is sensitive to changes in diet and lifestyle, so you should not be surprised or alarmed if, once in a while, your system slows down. Anyone can get constipated, and it does not necessarily mean that they are unhealthy or that they have an unhealthy lifestyle. There are many possible causes and certain times in our lives when we are more likely to become constipated.

Constipation/irregularity can happen to all of us.

Constipation can be caused by:

  • Changes in lifestyle, such as diet and not drinking enough fluids
  • Not enough physical activity
  • Some medical conditions, like pregnancy or diabetes
  • Travel
  • Stress or anxiety

    – Stress and a busy lifestyle can take their toll. During a hectic day, it is not unusual to either resist the urge to go or to miss the opportunity to use the bathroom entirely. Unfortunately, postponing a bowel movement until later may actually cause regularity problems

  • Certain medicines and nutritional supplements, including a surprising number of prescription and non-prescription drugs

There are many things you can do to help prevent constipation. They include:

  • Eating more fruits, vegetables and grains, which are high in fiber
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Taking time to have a bowel movement when you need to
  • Tell your doctor about the medicines you are taking. Some medicines may cause constipation

Very common. In the United States, more than 42 million people suffer the discomfort of constipation each year.

Normal frequency is different for everyone. Some people go once or twice a day, others three times a week — all completely normal if that number of trips to the bathroom is their regular routine.

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