How can I relieve my constipation?

Dietary fiber, or bran, consists of nondigestible plant products, which should be part of a healthy diet and can help relieve constipation. The amount of dietary fiber can be readily increased by use of a fiber supplement, such as Konsyl.

Though often referred to as bulk laxatives, fiber supplements are not laxatives at all, and are neither harmful nor habit-forming. Fiber has many beneficial effects in addition to the relief of constipation; it may help lower cholesterol, diminish the chance of polyps or cancer of the colon, and diminish the frequency and severity of symptoms in individuals with diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or hemorrhoids.
You can do things to help relieve constipation. These are common tips healthcare providers recommend:
  • Get moving to get things moving. Increased physical activity, such as walking or yoga, can decrease stress and improve constipation symptoms. Relaxation techniques like meditation, massage and tai chi can also be helpful.
  • Keep a symptom diary. It won't be as juicy as the one you wrote when you were 12, but a symptom diary can help you identify triggers, such as certain foods or stresses, which may worsen your constipation and abdominal pain or discomfort.
  • Fill up on fiber. Dietary fiber may help to bulk up the stool and pull more water into the stool, both of which help make the stool easier to pass. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water each day to stay hydrated and promote healthy digestion.
  • Discuss over-the-counter (OTC)  treatments with your healthcare provider. There are several OTC remedies for occasional constipation, including laxatives and stool softeners. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting an OTC treatment, and keep in mind that although these products may temporarily alleviate constipation, they are not meant for long-term use.
  • Discuss prescription medications with your healthcare provider. He or she may prescribe medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to relieve constipation and certain other symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) or chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC), which is constipation without a known cause.
Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
People suffering from constipation should start by boosting fiber and fluid intake and increasing physical exercise. Drinking more fluids may reduce the need for the colon to rehydrate stools and is, in any case, harmless. Exercise, which is widely believed to promote regularity (although few studies have investigated this), has many other health benefits as well.

Bowel training is another option. In order to retrain your bowel, you attempt to defecate at a regular time each day, when bowel movements are most likely to occur (first thing in the morning, following exercise, or after a meal, for example). The idea is to repeat the routine until the body adopts the bowel movement as part of its daily rhythm. Although bowel training is harmless and does help some people, it has not been widely tested.
To relieve constipation:
  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
  • Add one cup of unprocessed bran cereal to your daily diet or add bran powder to non-bran cereals, applesauce, or soup.
  • Sit comfortably on a low commode with knees drawn up to help the abdominal muscles pass the stool.
  • Discuss other possible remedies with your doctor; this is important because the frequent use of laxatives, suppositories, and enemas can cause additional health problems.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.