What is constipation?
Constipation means that you have a hard time passing stools (bowel movements). People pass stools from 3 times a day to once every 3 days. What is normal for you may be different than what is normal for another person.
Constipation may occur with pain in the rectum and cramping. The pain may get worse when you try to pass stools. Sometimes there are small amounts of bright red blood on toilet paper or the surface of stools. This is because of enlarged veins near the rectum (hemorrhoids).
Some medicines can cause constipation. These include pain medicines and antidepressants. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take. Your doctor may want to make a medicine change to ease your symptoms.
How to care for constipation yourself
A few changes in your diet and lifestyle may help you avoid ongoing constipation. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help loosen your stool.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- Include high-fiber foods in your diet each day. These include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
- Take a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil, every day. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. A daily routine may help. Take your time having a bowel movement, but don't sit for more than 10 minutes at a time. And don't strain too much.
- Support your feet with a small step stool when you sit on the toilet. This helps flex your hips and places your pelvis in a squatting position.
- Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter laxative to relieve your constipation. Examples are Milk of Magnesia and MiraLax. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not use laxatives on a long-term basis.
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have new or worse belly pain.
- You have new or worse nausea or vomiting.
- You have blood in your stools.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your constipation is getting worse.
- You do not get better as expected.