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.
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.