Normal, healthy bowel emptying varies from person to person – from several times a day to several times a week. Constipation occurs when bowel motions become harder or drier than normal, and are more difficult to pass, or when you get a less-than-usual number of bowel movements.
Older people are more likely than younger people to experience constipation, and it’s more common in women than men. Babies may get constipated when they start solids, or if they’re dehydrated.
Symptoms of constipation
- Straining to pass a bowel motion
- Hard bowel motions that are difficult to pass
- Small, hard stools
- Bowel movements that are less frequent than usual
- Pain when passing a bowel movement
- Stomach cramps or bloating
What are the main likely causes of constipation, and their remedies?
Constipation can usually be remedied by simple lifestyle changes.
Not eating enough fibre-containing foods
Increase the roughage in your diet. Eat more wholegrains (e.g. cereals, bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta), fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Not drinking enough fluids
Drink at least six to eight glasses of water or fluid a day.
Not getting enough exercise
Poor mobility can cause constipation. Take more exercise, such as regular walking.
Delaying bowel opening
Heed nature’s call and don’t “hold on”. Don’t strain to release a bowel motion either. Try to go to the toilet at the same time each day.
Other causes of constipation include some medicines, pregnancy, potty training in children, emotional stress, and diseases.
Medicines for constipation
Constipation that causes real discomfort can be relieved with laxatives. There are many different types and forms of laxative available. Talk to our staff at the Happy Chemist.
When to see a doctor
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about constipation, especially if:
- There are changes in your bowel motions, with either constipation and/or looseness, especially if you’re over 40 years old.
- Constipation is not relived by the recommended lifestyle changes.
- Constipation becomes more severe or painful than usual.
- There is blood with your motions or they are black and tar-like.
- You find yourself using laxatives continually.