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Treating Constipation

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Constipation is a common and often uncomfortable problem. Constipation means you have bowel movements fewer than 3 times per week, or strain to pass hard, dry stool. It can last a short time. Or it can be a problem that never seems to go away. The good news is that it can often be treated and controlled.

Eat more fiber

One of the best ways to help treat constipation is to increase your fiber intake. You can do this either through diet or by using fiber supplements. Fiber (in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) adds bulk and absorbs water to soften the stool. This helps the stool pass through the colon more easily. When you increase your fiber intake, do it slowly to avoid side effects such as bloating. Also increase the amount of water that you drink. Eating more of the following foods can add fiber to your diet.

  • High-fiber cereals

  • Whole grains, bran, and brown rice

  • Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and greens

  • Fresh fruits (especially apples, pears, and dried fruits like raisins and apricots)

  • Nuts and legumes (especially beans such as lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans)

Get physically active

Exercise helps improve the working of your colon which helps ease constipation. Try to get some physical activity every day. If you haven’t been active for a while, talk to your healthcare provider before starting again.

Laxatives

Your healthcare provider may suggest an over-the-counter product to help ease your constipation. He or she may suggest the use of bulk-forming agents or laxatives. The use of laxatives, if used as directed, is common and safe. Follow directions carefully when using them. See your healthcare provider for new-onset constipation, or long-term constipation, to rule out other causes such as medicines or thyroid disease.

© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.