Treating Constipation

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Constipation is a common and often uncomfortable problem. Constipation means you have bowel movements fewer than 3 times per week. Or that you strain to pass hard, dry stool. It can last a short time. Or it can be a problem that never seems to go away. The good news is that it can often be treated and controlled.

Eat more fiber

One of the best ways to help treat constipation is to increase your fiber intake. You can do this either through diet or by using fiber supplements. Fiber (in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) adds bulk and absorbs water to soften the stool. This helps the stool pass through the colon more easily. When you increase your fiber intake, do it slowly to prevent side effects such as bloating. Also increase the amount of water that you drink. Eating more of these foods can add fiber to your diet:

  • High-fiber cereals

  • Whole grains, bran, and brown rice

  • Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and greens

  • Fresh fruits (especially apples, pears, and dried fruits such as raisins and apricots)

  • Nuts and legumes (especially beans such as lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans)

Get physically active

Exercise helps improve the working of your colon which helps ease constipation. Try to get some physical activity every day. If you haven’t been active for a while, talk with your healthcare provider before starting again.


Your healthcare provider may suggest an over-the-counter product to help ease your constipation. He or she may suggest the use of bulk-forming agents or laxatives. Laxatives, if used as directed, are common and safe. Follow directions carefully when using them. See your provider for new-onset constipation, or long-term constipation, to rule out other causes such as medicines or thyroid disease.