What is Constipation?

Constipation is by definition is going more than 3 days between bowel movements or having bowel movements that are excessively hard causing discomfort and/or straining. A “normal” number of bowel movements per week varies from person to person. Therefore, we should think of constipation in terms of bowel movements occurring less frequently or becoming more difficult based on average numbers for that individual.

When to see a Doctor for Constipation

Before seeing a physician for constipation you should first try to increase your fiber and fluid intake. Also, make sure to exercise regularly. If that does not do the trick then try adding a gentle laxative like milk of magnesia.

If you are still having constipation problems after trying these dietary changes, regular exercise and a laxative you should schedule an appointment to see a doctor. A gastroenterologist can prescribe medications to improve bowel frequency and evaluate your constipation for underlying causes.

What Causes Constipation?

Most causes of constipation are related to dietary and lifestyle choices. Your diet should include 25-30 grams of fiber daily along with at least six 8-ounce glasses of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated liquids daily. Also, those individuals with a non-active lifestyle are more susceptible to being constipated.

TIP: Fluids help fiber work better in your digestive system. Make sure to follow fluid intake recommendations when increasing your fiber intake.

Some medications that doctors prescribe to treat other health problems can cause constipation. These can range from antispasmodics to blood pressure medications to narcotics. If your constipation started after taking a new medication you need to make the prescribing physician aware of this condition.

More serious causes of constipation can be diseases that affect the motility or cause an obstruction of the colon. These include but are not limited to:

Foods High in Fiber

Here are some foods that are high in fiber:

  • Raspberries
  • Oatmeal (rolled oats and not instant)
  • Split peas
  • Lentils
  • Artichokes
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Green leafy vegetables

Foods to Avoid when Constipated

In addition to adding more fiber and liquids to your diet when constipated, there are foods to avoid as well. These include:

  • Dairy
  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol and Coffee – both make it difficult for your body to hang on to water, which is necessary to stay regular.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.  All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical condition