Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street - Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606

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Constipation

Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than 3 times a week. Of course, everyone is different, but this is the common definition. Other indicators include having hard, dry and small stools.

Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.

Normal bowel movements vary among people and you should know what’s right for you. While some people may have 3 bowel movements a day, others only have 3 per week.

Other symptoms include bloating and the feeling of a full bowel, small, hard or dry bowel movements, uncomfortable or painful bowel movements that are hard to pass, or a longer time than normal between movements.

Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • waiting too long to have a bowel movement (not going when you need to),
  • not eating enough fiber or bran,
  • not consuming enough fluids,
  • not getting enough exercise,
  • overusing or abusing laxatives and/or
  • taking iron pills or medicine with constipation as a side effect.

Some diseases or conditions, including depression or stress, can cause constipation in some cases.

You should contact your healthcare provider if you start having constipation after years of normal bowel movements or you have bouts of diarrhea alternating with constipation. You should also contact your doctor if you have pain during bowel movements that lasts some time afterward or have lost weight without trying. Other symptoms that should be shared with your physician include dark or tar-colored stools or blood in the stool.

At-home treatments include going to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge, consuming more fiber, bran and water, and increasing exercise (even walking can help).

Laxatives can be used for a short time, but generally not more than 1 week. A fiber supplement (psyllium products), such as Metamucil and Citrucel, can help produce softer, bulkier stools. For some people, however, this can make constipation worse.

You can avoid or alleviate constipation by following these lifestyle habits:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Drinking prune juice.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Taking a fiber product like Metamucil or Citrucel.
  • Avoiding overusing or abusing laxatives.

If constipation lasts longer than 1 week, contact your doctor for his or her recommendations.

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Illinois Gastroenterology Institute

Illinois Medical Center  •  1001 Main Street – Suite 500A  •  Peoria, Illinois 61606  •  Phone: (309) 672-4980  •  Fax: (309) 671-2931

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