Water: A Fluid Way to Manage Constipation

Chronic constipation -- when you can’t poop -- is a common digestive problem. You might have considered over-the-counter laxatives to “get things moving,” but you can do plenty to manage chronic constipation without taking medicine. One of the simplest ways is to drink plenty of fluids every day, eat dietary fiber, and exercise.

What Causes Chronic Constipation?

Water is important for your digestion. It keeps the food you eat moving along through your intestines and it keeps your intestines smooth and flexible, too.

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation. The food you eat makes its way from your stomach to the large intestine, or colon. If you don’t have enough water in your body already -- if you're dehydrated -- the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste. This makes hard stools that are difficult to pass.

There are other causes of chronic constipation too, including what you eat, traveling, medicines, irritable bowel syndrome, and pregnancy.

How Can I Prevent Dehydration?

Watch the amount of fluid you drink, listen to your body, and drink more liquids during exercise and hot weather.

Dehydration happens when your body gets rid of more fluids, usually through sweating or going to the bathroom more than normal, than it absorbs. Drinking too little water during exercise, hot weather, or daily activities can also cause the body to use up its stored water.

Will Drinking Water and Other Fluids Cure Constipation?

Extra fluids help keep the stool soft and easy to pass, but drinking more liquids does not cure constipation.

How Much Fluid Is Enough to Ease Chronic Constipation?

When it comes to thirst, most experts say "let your body be your guide." The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board suggests that women get 91 ounces of water each day from foods and drinks; men need 125 ounces. Remember, this recommendation includes the fluids in your food. In general, for healthy, average people, 8 cups a day is a good goal. Talk to your doctor about how much water is good for you. People with some medical conditions may need to drink less than that. Others may need more than 8 cups a day.

Besides Water, What Other Fluids Are Hydrating?

Fruit and vegetable juices, clear soups, and herbal teas are also good sources of fluids.

Are There Fluids I Should Avoid?

Stay away from alcohol. It is a diuretic, which gets rid of water from your body and leads to dehydration. Caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and colas are also diuretics, but as long as you drink moderate amounts, they probably won’t cause dehydration.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 17, 2016



American Academy of Family Physicians: "Constipation: Keeping Your Bowels Moving Smoothly." 

The Mayo Clinic: "Dehydration,"  "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day."

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC): "Constipation" and "What I Need to Know About Constipation."

Medline Plus: "Dehydration."

Maughan, R. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, December 2003.

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