Being constipated means your bowel movements are tough or happen less often than normal. Almost everyone goes through it at some point.
Although it’s not usually serious, you'll feel much better when your body is back on track.
The normal length of time between bowel movements varies widely from person to person. Some people have them three times a day. Others have them just a few times a week.
Going longer than 3 or more days without one, though, is usually too long. After 3 days, your poop gets harder and more difficult to pass.
What Are the Symptoms?
You may have:
- Few bowel movements
- Trouble having a bowel movement (straining to go)
- Hard or small stools
- A sense that everything didn’t come out
- Belly bloating
You also may feel like you need help to empty your bowels, such as pressing on your belly or using a finger to remove stool from your bottom.
Why Does It Happen?
Some causes of constipation include:
- Changes to what you eat or your activities
- Not enough water or fiber in your diet
- Eating a lot of dairy products
- Not being active
- Resisting the urge to poop
- Overuse of laxatives
- Some medications (especially strong pain drugs such as narcotics, antidepressants, and iron pills)
- Antacid medicines that have calcium or aluminum
- Eating disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems with the nerves and muscles in your digestive system
- Colon cancer
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis
- Underactive thyroid (called hypothyroidism)
What Should I Do If I Am Constipated?
Take these steps:
- Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day, unless your doctor told you to limit fluids for another reason.
- Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
- Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- Eat prunes and bran cereal.
- Exercise most days of the week. When you move your body, the muscles in your intestines are more active, too.
- Don’t ignore the urge to poop.
You can try taking a laxative, too. There are several types of laxatives, and you can buy many of them over the counter. Each of them works in a different way to ease constipation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which kind might work for you and how long you should take it.