What is constipation?

Constipation is used to describe the condition of infrequent, hard dry stools resulting in difficulty having a bowel movement. Bowel movement frequency often varies from person to person and may not happen every day. Everyone has their own “normal” cycle of bowel movements and constipation is considered a significant decrease from your “normal” cycle.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Hard, dry stools
  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Feeling that you have not completely emptied your bowels, “still need to go”
  • Hemorrhoids or small protrusions from the anus that may cause a small amount of bright red bleeding with bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain, commonly on the left side
  • Nausea

When to see a Provider:

Constipation can be treated easily at home with higher fiber diets, increased hydration, and an over the counter stool softener and/or laxative. If you feel that over the counter treatments or diet changes are not helping, please follow up with a provider. If you are having significant pain or bleeding, or if your constipation has lasted for an extended period of time, see a provider as soon as possible to rule out other issues that may be causing the problem.

Prevention tips/Treatment:

  • Increase fiber intake- wholes grains, fresh fruits, beans, vegetables, cereals
  • Exercise
  • “Go” when you have the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep bowel movements soft
  • Limit foods high in fat and sugar
  • Over the counter laxatives can assist in the relief of occasional constipation but should be used strictly as directed and only for short term use! Overuse can worsen the constipation issue and damage the bowels. Bulk-forming laxatives are the safest to use and work by naturally adding water to stools to allow for easy passage. However, you may experience bloating, gas and cramping as a side effect when you first start to use them that often improves within a few weeks. Speak to a pharmacist at the store if you are unsure which one to purchase.