Everyone is different. Some people have fewer bowel movements (BMs) without
constipation than others.
Constipation is a change in how often you have a BM, the size and thickness
of the BM, or how easily the BM is passed.
Normal bowel movements happen a few times a day or once every 3 days.
What are signs of being constipated?
Unable to have a BM after pushing.
Having fewer than 3 BMs in a week.
Large, hard BMs that are painful.
What causes constipation?
Not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water.
Eating and drinking too many milk products.
Waiting too long to have a BM.
Not drinking enough fluids.
Changes in digestion from pregnancy.
Illness and medication.
How is constipation treated? Changes in diet can help. Taking regular trips to the bathroom and using
stool softeners can also help.
Eat regular meals. Breakfast is the most important.
Eat foods high in fiber such as beans, potatoes, broccoli, corn, graham
crackers, and popcorn.
Take bran tablets or eat bran, found in food like brown rice, cereal
(such as Raisin Bran or Shredded Wheat), bran muffins, oatmeal, and whole-grain
Drink plenty of fluids. Have a drink with each meal and in between meals.
Eat at least 2 servings of fruits and raw vegetables each day.
Drink fruit juices. Prune juice is best.
Regular bathroom breaks
Use the bathroom at the same time each day.
Do not ignore the need to have a BM.
Do not force a BM. Pressing on your lower stomach or drinking a glass
of warm water may help.
Ask your doctor before using a laxative, especially if you are pregnant.
If a change in diet doesn't help, you can use a stool softener (such
as Metamucil and Citrucel). Take 1 or 2 teaspoons of powder 2 or 3 times
each day with a meal. Mix the powder with water or juice.
If there is no BM after 48 hours, take 1 or 2 tablespoons of Milk of
Magnesia before bed.
If there is no BM after 3 days, use a glycerin suppository or take a
small tap water enema.
Do not use stool softeners regularly.
How long should constipation last?
Constipation should not last more than 7 days after switching to a better
diet and exercising.
How can constipation be prevented?
Eat fruits, vegetables, bran, and fiber.
Drink water and fruit juices. Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
Avoid large amounts of milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, fatty foods, candy, and
Take regular bathroom breaks. Eat regular meals.
When should I call the doctor? Constipation can cause a small tear in the anal canal called an anal fissure.
You may find a small amount of bright red blood on your toilet paper or in your
stools from these tears. You do not need to call the doctor unless:
there is a larger amount of blood mixed in the stool.
you have bad rectal or stomach pain.
you haven't had a BM after 7 days of trying a new diet and exercising.
you are pregnant and would like to use a laxative.
you have questions or concerns.
Constipation is a change in how often you have a bowel movement (BM), the
size and thickness of the BM, or how easy the BM is passed.
You may be constipated if you can't have a BM or if BMs are painful.
The wrong diet and waiting too long to have a BM can cause constipation.
Changes in diet, taking regular trips to the bathroom, and using stool softeners
can help you have regular BMs.
Constipation should not last more than 7 days.
Take regular bathroom breaks, eat regular meals, and exercise daily.
Call the doctor if you have stomach or rectal pain, blood in your stool,
or haven't had a BM in 7 days.
Dietary. Preventing Constipation with Diet. 1999 November
30 (cited 2001 September 10). Available from: URL: http://www.vh.org/Patients/IHB/Dietary/PreventConstipation.html
James A. Clifton Center for Digestive Diseases. Constipation: A Guide for
Patients. Internal Medicine. Available from: URL: http://www.vh.org/Patients/IHB/IntMed/Gastro/Constipation.html
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Constipation. 2001 June
21 (cited 2001 September 13). Available from: URL: http://www.mayoclinic.com/home?id=DS00063
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