What is Constipation?
Constipation is the change in bowel habits that can manifest as hard or small stools, infrequent bowel movement (generally less than 3 times per week) or difficulty passing stools.¹ Constipation is a common problem in both children and adults.
Chronic constipation is the condition when symptoms persist for 3 months or longer.²
Why do You Have Constipation?
Constipation can be caused by:³'⁴
Imbalanced diet lacking in fibre
Side effects of certain medications such as certain antihistamines, codeine and iron tablets
Diseases of the digestive system such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Other diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s or hypothyroidism
What are the Symptoms of Constipation?
Signs and symptoms of constipation includes:¹
< 3 bowel movements a week
Having small or hard stools
Straining to have bowel movements
Feeling as though you have not completely emptied your bowels
You should speak to a healthcare provider if the constipation:¹'³
Lasts longer than 3 weeks
Is severe and painful
Is presented with other alarming features such as blood on the toilet paper, weight loss, fever or fatigue
Other people in your family have had colorectal cancer or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
How to Treat or Prevent Constipation?
Increase your fibre intake as this can reduce or eliminate constipation. It is recommended to consume 20 to 35 grams of fibre every day.¹ You can determine the amount of fibre by referring to the product information label on the side of packages.
Drink plenty of water and other fluids to soften the stools.³
Do not ignore urges to go to the toilet as these signals may become weaker over time, leading to constipation.¹
Adhere to a regular schedule for bowel movements, preferably after meals.¹
You can also take probiotics to help maintain a healthy digestive system. Probiotics are what people call ‘good bacteria’ which can help with digestive issues like constipation.⁵
You may also try over the counter medicines like laxatives which will help with bowel movement.¹ Laxatives are available as pills that you take by mouth or as suppositories or enemas that you insert into the anus.
Constipation can be a short-term problem, a prolonged issue or may even indicate a serious underlying condition.
It is important that you see your doctor if you experience concerning symptoms or if it affects your quality of life.
There are ways to help reduce constipation, such as increasing fibre and fluid intake, practicing regular bowel habits and taking probiotics.
Wald A. Patient education: Constipation in adults (Beyond the Basics). In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
Wald A. Etiology and evaluation of chronic constipation in adults. In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
Patient education: Constipation in adults (The Basics). In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
Patient education: Constipation in children (The Basics). In: UpToDate, Post, TW (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2021
Butel M-J. Probiotics, gut microbiota and health. Médecine et Maladies Infectieuses. 2014;44(1):1-8.
Disclaimer: The article content is intended for informational or educational purposes only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. The disclaimer also provides that no warranties are given in relation to the medical information supplied in the article, and that no liability will accrue to Miraco Nutripharm Pte Ltd or any affiliated authors in the event that a user suffers loss as a result of reliance upon the information.