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How do I Treat Constipation?

Constipation is a very common condition in which a person experiences infrequent, difficult bowel movements as a result of a poor diet, dehydration, or another medical cause. Individuals often experience significant discomfort while straining to pass hard stools. There are many different home remedies a person can use to treat constipation symptoms, such as eating fiber-rich foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly. Over-the-counter laxatives, stool softeners, and other medications are generally effective at treating mild or occasional constipation. People who experience severe or chronic constipation should seek the advise of a medical doctor to determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Most people are able to treat constipation by making minor changes to their diets and daily routines. Constipation is often a result of not consuming sufficient amounts of dietary fiber. Eating high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains can help soften stools. Drinking plenty of water and fruit juices, while avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol and soda, helps to hydrate the body and promote regularity. Engaging in frequent exercise and maintaining a consistent sleeping pattern can also help regulate the digestive system as well as improve overall health.

When lifestyle changes alone are not enough to treat constipation, people often seek over-the-counter remedies. Fiber supplements can help regulate bowel movements by making up for the lack of nutrients in a person's diet. Supplements come in pill, liquid, and powder form, and are commonly sold at pharmacies, supermarkets, vitamin shops, and health food stores.

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Many people take laxatives as a way to treat constipation. Laxatives contain large amounts of concentrated fiber and liquid, which work to loosen, lubricate, and soften stools. While laxatives are usually effective at treating constipation, most doctors warn about the dangers of overuse and dependence. People who abuse laxatives are at risk of losing important nutrients and vitamins through frequent bowel movements. In general, laxatives should not be taken for more than two weeks at a time.

Individuals who do not find success with home treatments, and those who experience severe, long-lasting constipation, should consult licensed physicians. A doctor can perform a physical examination to determine if a person's chronic constipation is a symptom of a larger medical problem, such as colon cancer. The doctor might prescribe a high strength laxative or suppository, or suggest that the patient receive an enema to cleanse the colon and create a clear, lubricated passageway for future bowel movements. In some rare cases, colon surgery may be required to treat constipation and ease severe pain.

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Discuss this Article

Kat919
Post 2

@ElizaBennett - I never could get my little girl to drink apple juice, but just giving her water helped some. It's weird that apple juice provides constipation relief, because I've read that apple*sauce* will really back them up!

It can help to avoid those constipation-causing foods, and of course it's a little different for everyone. My husband has to be careful how much cheese he eats if he doesn't want to get backed up. And when my daughter was maybe seven or eight months old, she *loved* bananas, but even half a banana would constipate her. I had to limit her to just a tiny portion.

But it changed fast. A few months later, she went through a stage when she wouldn't eat anything *but* bananas - up to four a day - but they didn't seem to cause her any problems by then.

ElizaBennett
Post 1

Certain juices are also helpful for constipation, especially in babies. You've probably heard of prunes and prune juices as remedies for constipation, but those aren't the only options.

Too much apple juice can cause diarrhea in kids - but a small amount can ease constipation. (My pediatrician recommended, for a baby, one ounce for each month of age.) Pear juice is another good one for constipation, and so are fresh or pureed pears.

You can also try squatting to go. Sounds weird, but it can reduce straining.

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