Dealing With Constipation

What is constipation? [1]

Passing hard, dry stools is known as constipation. Constipation can cause pain, bloating, flatulence, poor appetite, nausea and tiredness. We all have different bowel motions but we should be aiming for a soft bowel movement which is easy to pass every 1-2 days. However, if you haven’t had a bowel movement for 3 days or more, speak to your doctor immediately.

Causes of constipation

  • Old age
  • Poor fluid intake
  • Poor fibre intake
  • Reduced mobility or activity
  • Less food intake
  • Medical conditions

What you can do to manage constipation [2]

  • Aim to drink at least 2L of water per day
  • Increase the fibre intake in your diet gradually. Increasing fibre too quickly or starting fibre supplements or bran without drinking enough fluid could worsen constipation and lead to bloating, flatulence, pain etc.
    • High fibre foods: wholegrain bread, red rice, fruits, vegetables, legumes, kidney beans, nuts and seeds, oats, barley
    • If you’re making juice, try to incorporate the whole fruit or vegetable with the skin on with seeds.
  • Avoid undereating and following restrictive diets or excessive fasting.
  • Drink pear or prune juice.
  • Engage in light exercise or any form of activity that you enjoy.
  • Take a laxative ONLY if recommended by your doctor.

Medical causes of constipation [3]

Constipation can be triggered by certain medical conditions and even medications. Strong pain medications such as codeine, oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine. Other classes of medications such as anti-nausea medications, chemotherapy medications and anti-depressants can also cause constipation in some individuals.

Management of medical causes of constipation [3]

For medical causes of constipation, changing your diet will not completely resolve the constipation. It is important to take a regular laxative and drink plenty of fluids to deal with constipation in this instance. Here, your doctor will prescribe a suitable laxative which can be taken as recommended by your health practitioner.


  1. Andrews C, Storr M. The pathophysiology of chronic constipation. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2011;25(suppl b):16B-21B.
  2. Yang J. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012;18(48):7378.
  3. Woolery et al; Putting Evidence into Practice: Evidenced- Based Interventions for the Prevention and Management of Constipation in Patients with Cancer, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2008, Volume 12 Number 2.

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