What to do about constipation
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What to do about constipation

The management of constipation is based on lifestyle and dietary changes (initially in eating habits and lifestyle). If these changes are not effective, the management can be supplemented with oral laxative medication.1 Treatment for constipation is effective.1

Lifestyle measures to treat constipation

In everyday life, simple lifestyle changes can resolve constipation:1, 2

  • Modify your diet: increase daily fibre intake and include fresh fruit and vegetables. Dietary changes in constipation are recommended to include a high fibre diet including 20 – 30 grams of fibre per day.1,2
  •  Drink plenty of water/fluids as the positive effects of dietary fibre are enhanced. Fluid supplementation of up to 1,5L -2L per day is recommended.2
  • Exercise regularly. Practice moderate physical activity of 30 – 60 minutes per day. Immobility is strongly associated with constipation.1,2

Keep to a routine and do not delay when you feel the natural urge to go to the toilet. The body’s urge to have a bowel movement should not be ignored.1,2

Read advices to fight constipation

Medication for constipation

Laxatives help relieve constipation by softening the stool or stimulating the colon motility. There are different laxative drugs with different mechanisms of action on your digestive system.2

Read the section on laxative medication

When should I see a doctor?

It is best to consult a doctor if the symptoms of constipation persist for more than 3 weeks or if the symptoms are severe.2

Or if constipation is accompanied by:2

  • The presence of blood on the toilet paper
  • Vomiting
  • Colic-like abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Failure of over-the-counter treatment to correct the constipation
  • New symptoms or sudden change in bowel habits lasting 2 weeks or longer
  • Constipation caused by prescribed medication
  • Regular reliance on stimulant laxatives to achieve bowel movements

1: NHS inform. Constipation. [Internet]. 2018. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and- conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/constipation (Accessed 6 October 2018).
2: Sibanda M, Meyer JC, et al. Chronic constipation in adults. S Afr Pharm J. 2018;85(1):34-42.