Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, may indicate a more serious condition. Your doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions. Tests may include:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests
- Digital rectal exam—examination of the rectum with the doctor's gloved, lubricated finger inserted into your rectum
x-ray—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the abdomen
Barium enema—injection of fluid into the rectum that makes your colon light up on an x-ray
Flexible sigmoidoscopy—a thin, lighted tube with a camera inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower colon
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Treatment may include:
Understanding Normal Bowel Movements
Talk to your doctor about what is a normal frequency of bowel movements for you. The range of normal is quite broad. Some people have several stools a day. Others have one stool every several days.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is
high in fiber
(such as unprocessed bran, whole-wheat grains, fresh fruit, and cereals). Eating prunes every day may also improve bowel movements.
- Limit your intake of processed and fatty foods.
- Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
Taking Laxatives, Stool Softeners, or Glycerin Suppositories
Regularly using laxatives or enemas can be habit forming. Your bowels can become accustomed to these products and require them in order to produce a stool. Stool softeners, though, are not habit-forming. Ask your doctor about how often and for how long to use these products.
Examples of medicines include:
- Polyethylene glycol 3350
(GlycoLax, MiraLax)—a type of laxative
- Psyllium—a bulk laxative
- Docusate—a stool softener
- Lactulose—a type of laxative
(Amitiza)—a medicine that increases fluid in stool
Botulism injections—may be used to treat certain types of constipation
Retraining Your Bowels
Set aside the same time each day to move your bowels. Typically, this works best after breakfast and coffee. Sit on the toilet for 15-20 minutes. Over time, your body will learn to have regular bowel movements at the same time each day.
works by attaching sensors to the body. These sensors give you information about your muscles. By working with a therapist, you learn how to control certain muscles that can help you to move your bowels.
Treating Underlying Conditions
Work with your doctor to treat other conditions that may be causing your constipation.
If you are taking medicine that causes constipation, talk to your doctor to find out if you can take another drug.
If you are taking opioids to relieve pain, you may have constipation. A medicine called
(Relistor) may help to reduce this side effect.
If you have severe, chronic constipation, your doctor may recommend surgery.
If you are diagnosed with constipation, follow your doctor's