Constipation is when your stools are painful or they do not happen often enough. It is the most common GI (gastrointestinal) problem.
You may have constipation if:
Normal bowel movements vary depending on the person. They may happen as often as 3 times a day. Or they may happen just 3 times a week.
Your stool gets hard and dry when your colon (large intestine) absorbs too much water.
In most cases, as food moves through your colon, the colon absorbs water while it makes stool. Muscle movements (contractions) push the stool toward your rectum. When the stool gets to the rectum, most of the water has been soaked up. The stool is now solid.
If you have constipation, your colon's muscle movements are too slow. This makes the stool move through your colon too slowly. The colon absorbs too much water. The stool gets very hard and dry.
Some of the most common diet and lifestyle causes of constipation are:
Other causes of constipation include:
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms of constipation may include:
The symptoms of constipation can look like other health problems. Always talk to your healthcare provider to be sure.
Most people have constipation at one time or another. To see if you have constipation, your healthcare provider will do several tests. These tests will depend on how long you have had symptoms and how serious your case is.
First your healthcare provider will look at:
Your healthcare provider will likely:
Your healthcare provider may also do other tests such as:
Your healthcare provider will come up with a care plan for you based on:
In most cases, diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce constipation symptoms. They can also stop it from happening. These changes may include:
Whole-wheat bread, granola bread, wheat bran muffins, grain bars, waffles, popcorn
100% whole-grain cereals, oatmeal, granola, and oat bran
100% bran cereals
Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, green beans, green peas, acorn and butternut squash, spinach, potato with skin, avocado
Apples with peel, dates, papayas, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, pears, kiwis, strawberries, applesauce, raspberries, blackberries, raisins
Cooked prunes, dried figs
Peanut butter, nuts
Baked beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chili with beans, trail mix
Constipation can cause other health problems such as:
Many of the same lifestyle changes that help treat constipation may also help to stop it from happening:
Most people have constipation at one time or another. But call your healthcare provider if:
Your Family's Health