Let's Talk Constipation

Treatment options

The basics

Diet, fiber, and exercise are important. That's true whether you have occasional or chronic constipation. Talk to your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

Lifestyle quick tips

  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise daily
  • Reserve time for a bowel movement
  • Never ignore your urge to have a bowel movement

These tips can help promote good digestive health.

Therapy choices

Fiber

Here's how fiber works. Fiber is a component of plants, and it passes through the intestine undigested. Fiber also absorbs a lot of water, which results in softer, bulkier stools.

Fiber can help decrease the time that it takes food to pass through your colon (24 to 48 hours). When stools are soft and bulky, they can move more easily through the colon. When stools are hard and dry, they have trouble moving through–that's when you experience straining.

For all of these reasons, eating high-fiber foods may help with constipation. There are many high-fiber foods. Beans. Whole grains and bran cereals. Fresh fruits and dried fruits. Vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrots. Greens like spinach, kale, collard, and Swiss chard.

Talk to your doctor about creating a high-fiber diet that could work for you.

Laxatives

Your doctor can help you determine if laxatives are right for you. There are different kinds of laxatives. And they work in different ways.

Bulk-forming laxatives.
These are fiber supplements to be taken with water and work similar to food fiber. Products include Metamucil and Citrucel.

Osmotic laxatives.
Three types include saline, lactulose and polyethylene glycol. They act similarly, like a sponge to draw water into the colon, which in turn makes stool softer. They are effective in increasing stool frequency and stool consistency.
  • Saline laxatives. Examples include Milk of Magnesia.
  • Lactulose laxatives. Lactulose is a nonabsorbable carbohydrate. These can be used for chronic constipation.
  • Polyethylene glycol. This is approved to treat occasional constipation for up to two weeks. An example of this is MiraLAX.

Stimulant laxatives.
These can cause rhythmic muscle contractions in the intestines and help move stool through the colon. Products include Correctol and Dulcolax.

Stool softeners.
These provide moisture to the stool and prevent dehydration and allow the stool to pass through the colon. Stool softeners do not promote bowel movements but instead allow you to have bowel movements without straining. Products include Colace and Surfak.

Lubricants.
They lubricate the bowel and stool so it can move through the intestine more easily. Mineral oil is the most common example.

Brand names listed are trademarks of their respective owners.

Other treatment option

Another possible treatment option may be available to you. Find out more about this treatment.

These are not all the treatment options. It is important to talk to your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is appropriate for you.

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