Constipation, Age 12 and Older
Constipation, Age 12 and Older
Constipation can be treated at
- Try gentle exercise. Take a short walk each
day. Gradually increase your walking time until you are walking for at least 20
- Make sure you drink enough fluids. Most adults should try
to drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water or noncaffeinated beverages each
day. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine, which can increase
dehydration. If you have heart failure or kidney
failure, talk to your doctor about what amount of fluid is right for
- Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day.
Have a bran muffin or bran cereal for breakfast, and try eating a piece of
fruit for a mid-afternoon snack.
- Schedule time each day for a bowel
movement (after breakfast, for example). Establishing a daily routine may help.
Take your time. Do not be in a hurry.
- Support your feet with a small step stool [about
6 in. (15 cm)] when you sit on
the toilet. This will help flex your hips and place your pelvis in a more
normal "squatting" position for having a bowel movement.
- If you are still constipated:
- Add some processed or synthetic fiber—such as
Citrucel, Metamucil, or Perdiem—to your diet each day.
- Try a stool
softener, such as Colace, if your stools are very hard.
- Try a
rectal glycerin suppository. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use
more often than recommended on the label.
- Osmotic laxatives (such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, Milk of Magnesia, or Miralax) and nonabsorbable sugars (such as lactulose or sorbitol) hold fluids in the intestine. They also draw fluids into the intestine from other tissue and blood vessels. This extra fluid in the intestines makes the stool softer and easier to pass. Drink plenty of water when you use this type of laxative.
- You may occasionally need to try a
laxative, such as Ex-Lax or Feen-a-Mint. Use these
preparations sparingly. Overuse of stimulant laxatives decreases the tone and
sensation in the large intestine, causing dependence on using laxatives.
Regular use may interfere with your body's ability to absorb vitamin D and
calcium, which can weaken your bones. Do not use laxatives for longer than 2
weeks without consulting your doctor.
- If you are
still constipated, check your symptoms to determine if and when
you need to see your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor before using an
enema. Your doctor may need to check your symptoms or may suggest a different
way to treat your constipation.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Constipation occurs or continues after 1 week of home treatment.
- Rectal pain develops or
- Blood in the stool develops or
- Uncontrolled leakage of
- Your symptoms become more severe or more
If you have any of these symptoms, you need to be evaluated
by a doctor.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
August 2, 2012
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