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.
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.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor right away if you have sudden constipation with belly pain or cramping and you aren’t able to poop or pass gas at all.
- Constipation is a new problem for you, and lifestyle changes haven’t helped.
- You have blood in your stool.
- You’re losing weight even though you’re not trying to.
- You have severe pain with bowel movements.
- Your constipation has lasted more than 2 weeks.
- The size, shape, and consistency of your stool has changed dramatically.
Your doctor may recommend some tests to find the cause of your constipation:
- Blood tests to check on hormone levels
- Tests that check the muscles in your anus
- Tests that show how waste moves through and out of your colon
- Colonoscopy to look for blockages in your colon