Constipation

What is constipation?

Constipation means that bowel movements are infrequent and hard to pass and cause you to strain during bowel movements. It is not considered to be constipation if the bowel movement is not hard and difficult to pass.

What is the normal frequency of bowel movements for one person can be different for another person. For some people, 3 times a day is normal. For others once every 3 days may be normal. What’s important is whether there is a change in what has been normal for you.

How does it occur?

You may have constipation because:

  • You ignore the urge and wait too long to have bowel movements.

  • You overuse some types of laxatives.

  • You do not drink enough fluids.

  • You do not eat enough fiber.

  • You don’t have enough physical activity.

  • You are taking iron pills or a medicine that has a side effect of constipation.

Other possible causes are:

  • pregnancy

  • depression or stress

  • some medical conditions and diseases.

What are the symptoms?

  • small bowel movements

  • hard, dry bowel movements

  • uncomfortable or painful bowel movements that are hard to pass

  • a longer time than usual between bowel movements

  • bloating and feeling like you have a full bowel.

Normal bowel movements vary from person to person. For some people, 3 times a day is normal. For others 3 times a week may be normal. What’s important are changes in what has been normal for you.

How is it treated?

To ease your constipation:

  • Drink more fluids.

  • Add more fiber to your diet, such as bran muffins, graham crackers, oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, and popcorn.

  • Get more exercise.

  • Make sure that you go to the bathroom whenever you feel that you need to go. Don’t wait.

Laxatives may be used for a short time, generally less than 1 week. Many people find fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, Citrucel, or other psyllium products, to be helpful, but sometimes they can make constipation worse.

Ask your Reddy Urgent Care healthcare provider if any medicines you are taking may be causing constipation.  Tell your healthcare provider if:

  • You start having constipation after years of normal bowel movements.

  • You have bouts of constipation alternating with bouts of diarrhea.

  • You have pain during bowel movements or for some time afterward.

  • Your bowel movements are dark or tar-colored or have blood in them.

  • You are losing weight without trying.

How can I take care of myself?

To help take care of yourself:

  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruit every day.

  • Exercise regularly. For example, if you are able, walk for at least 30 minutes every day. Check with your healthcare provider before adding any new exercise.

  • Drink prune juice or eat stewed fruits at breakfast.

  • Drink enough liquids each day to keep your urine light yellow in color.

  • Increase the whole-grain fiber in your diet by eating cereals with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving (for example, shredded wheat or bran flakes).

  • Ask your Reddy Urgent Care healthcare provider about taking fiber products or laxatives or giving yourself an enema. You can take a fiber product like Metamucil or Citrucel once or twice a day for several days if you are constipated. Avoid overusing other laxatives, such as cathartics, which are products that will cause a liquid bowel movement. Cathartics, including Milk of magnesia or Epsom salt, irritate the lining of the intestines.

  • Come to Reddy Urgent Care if:

    • o.Constipation lasts longer than 1 week.

    • o.You have constipation alternating with diarrhea.

    • o.You have blood in your stool.

    • o.You have severe abdominal pain.

    • o.You have abdominal swelling or vomiting.

    • o.You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C).

    • o.You have any symptoms that worry you.