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Constipation

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the U.S. While the frequency of bowel movements can vary greatly across individuals, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in one week. It occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon muscle is contracting too slowly. This makes stool in the colon become hard, dry and difficult to pass.

Anyone can become constipated, but some people are more likely to experience constipation, including:

  • Pregnant women

  • Women who have just given birth

  • Adults over the age 65

Common causes of constipation include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Fewer than three stools a week

  • Hard or lumpy stools

  • Difficulty passing stool or straining during stool movements

  • Feeling as if there is a blockage in the rectum or stool still in the rectum after using the restroom

Treatment Options

Constipation can usually be treated at home with self-care. Relief can be found by:

  • Physical activity – Walking around can help relax the bowel muscles, making it easier to pass stool.

  • Drinking water – Water can help flush stool from the intestine.

  • Eating fiber – Foods and drinks high in fiber, such as prune or apple juice, beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and bran, can help your body pass waste.

  • Over-the-counter laxatives – Laxatives can help soften stool to move it through the bowels. Be careful not to heavily rely on laxatives to relieve constipation symptoms as it can create chronic constipation.

If constipation persists or regularly occurs, contact a gastroenterologist. A specialist will do a complete exam, ask questions about your medical and family history, and order any necessary diagnostic tests.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of constipation, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat constipation.

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