Constipation is a common and often uncomfortable problem. You have constipation if you have bowel movements less often than usual or strain to pass hard, dry stool. Constipation can be a temporary problem that lasts a short time. Or it can be a chronic problem that never seems to go away. Fortunately, it can often be controlled.
Note: If necessary, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter fiber supplement.
Eat More Fiber
- One of the best ways to help treat constipation is to eat a high-fiber diet.
- 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.
- Drinking more water can also help soften stool.
Get Regular Exercise
- Regular exercise helps improve the working of your colon and helps ease constipation.
- Ask your health care provider about starting a regular exercise program.
Avoid Chronic Laxative Use
- Laxatives stimulate the colon to work more rapidly. Continuous use of laxatives can cause the colon to stretch and weaken, and eventually the colon may not work right without them.
- Your doctor can help you overcome a dependence on laxatives.
- Never use laxatives without consulting your health care provider first.
Eating more of the following foods can add fiber to your diet and help prevent constipation:
- High-fiber cereals
- Whole grains, bran, and brown rice
- Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and greens
- Fresh fruits (especially apples, pears, and dried fruits like raisins and apricots)
- Nuts and legumes (especially beans such as lentils, kidney beans, and lima beans)