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Constipation - And What To Do About It


Constipation is the lack of timely or infrequent bowel movements. Constipation is generally temporary. 

The following have been shown to help deal with constipation: 

  • Drink plenty of fluids to help keep your stool soft (at least 8 glasses of water or other fluids each day)
    • Warm and hot fluids such as tea and coffee work especially well.
    • Be sure the drinking water is safe - particularly if you are undergoing chemotherapy or your immune system is low.. To learn more, see: Water.
  • Eat high-fiber foods. Dietary fiber speeds movement of food through the GI tract and binds with water. This causes stools to become bulkier and pass out of the colon more easily.
    • High-fiber foods include the following:
      • Rice bran and wheat bran 
      • Whole grain breads and cereals 
      • Fruits and vegetables
        • Raw or cooked vegetables such as beans or squash, broccoli or carrots
        • Fresh and dried fruit, part icularly prunes
        • Eat fruits and vegetables with peels or skins on.
      • Nuts 
      • Seeds
      • Popcorn
    • Also consider:
      • Supplements that contain fiber to what you eat . 
      • Compare food labels of similar foods to find higher-fiber choices.
      • Bake with whole wheat  flour instead of white or all purpose flour .
    • To learn more, see: Nutrition 
  • Consider laxative drinks and foods such as:
    • Apple juice 
    • Pear juice.
    • Prunes and prune juice
  • Avoid milk and cheese. They can cause constipation in some people.
  • Physical activity helps move food through the bowel. Lack of exercise can slow food by reducing muscle contractions. 
    • Try to push yourself to walk if you can. Even just getting out for a walk can help.
    • Check with your doctor before increasing your physical activity. To learn more, see Exercise.
  • Complementary therapies such as:
    • Aloe vera juice several times a day
    • Flax or linseed seeds crushed into food or chewed
    • Herb teas such as Smooth Move Tea
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter medication such as the following (Check with your doctor before using):
    • Bulk laxatives (bran, Metamucil, Citrucel)
    • Colace, Dulcolax, Senokot. 
    • Enemas (tap water, soap suds, Fleets)
    • Lubricant (mineral oil)
    • Osmotic laxatives (lactulose, sorbitol)
    • Saline laxatives (milk of magnesia, magnesium citrate, sodium phosphate)
    • Stimulant laxatives [bisacodyl (Ducolax), castor oil]
    • Stool softener (Colace)
    • Suppositories (glycerine, bisacodyl)


  • If you do not have a bowel movement for two days, call your doctor and ask about taking a laxative or stool softener. Laxatives and stool softeners may interfere with the effectiveness of drugs or treatments or actually cause harm.
  • If you have severe constipation and first-line treatment doesn't work, ask your medical provider about trying acupuncture to the abdomen, boosted by an electric current. 
  • If you have rectal or anal cancer or colon cancer in the lower part of your colon, do not use a Fleet Enema or put anything else in your anus. Any object can nick a tumor or other condition and cause it to bleed which can cause a loss of a lot of blood. This prohibition includes anal sex, sex toys and even suppositories. With a suppository, you stick your finger in your rectum.

To Learn More

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