Self-management

  • Increase your fiber intake. Adding fiber to your diet increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines. Slowly begin to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals.

    Your doctor may recommend a specific number of grams of fiber to consume each day. In general, aim for 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your daily diet.

    A sudden increase in the amount of fiber you eat can cause bloating and gas, so start slowly and work your way up to your goal over a few weeks.

  • Exercise most days of the week. Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines. Try to fit in exercise most days of the week. If you do not already exercise, talk to your doctor about whether you are healthy enough to start an exercise program.
  • Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Take your time in the bathroom, allowing yourself enough time to have a bowel movement without distractions and without feeling rushed.

The following can help you avoid developing chronic constipation.

  • Include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, including beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and bran.
  • Eat fewer foods with low amounts of fiber such as processed foods, and dairy and meat products.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Stay as active as possible and try to get regular exercise.
  • Try to manage stress.
  • Don't ignore the urge to pass stool.
  • Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements, especially after a meal.
  • Make sure children who begin to eat solid foods get plenty of fiber in their diets.
Oct. 19, 2016
References
  1. Constipation. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/constipation/index.aspx. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  2. U.S. News best hospitals 2015-2016. U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/gastroenterology-and-gi-surgery. Accessed April 6, 2016.
  3. Bharucha AE, et al. American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on Constipation. Gastroenterology. 2013;144:211.
  4. Rakel D. Constipation. In: Integrative Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  5. Feldman M, et al. Constipation. In: Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  6. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  7. Wald A. Etiology and evaluation of chronic constipation in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  8. Wald A. Management of chronic constipation in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 17, 2016.
  9. Brown AY. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 4, 2016.
  10. Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. August 7, 2016.