Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel movements, usually fewer than three times per week. People who are constipated may find it difficult and painful to have a bowel movement. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the United States, resulting in about 2 million doctor visits annually.

Quick Facts


  • Hard, dry bowel movements, few than three times per week
  • Bloating
  • Feeling uncomfortable or sluggish 

 Common Causes:

  • Not enough fiber in the diet
  • Not enough liquids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Changes in life or daily routines, such as pregnancy, older age, travel, etc.
  • Abuse of laxatives
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Specific diseases such as stroke (by far the most common)
  • Problems with the colon and rectum
  • Problems with intestinal function


Most people with constipation do not need extensive testing.
  • The doctor will review your medical history and ask you to describe your constipation.
  • The doctor will review your eating habits, medications, and level of physical activity/exercise.
  • Physical examination may be performed.
  • Additional tests may be ordered if determined necessary.

Common Treatments:

  • Diet recommendations to include more high fiber foods, and limiting foods that promote constipation.
  • Lifestyle changes which may include drinking more water and other liquids such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups.
  • Increasing daily physical activity/exercise.
  • Laxatives may be recommended under physicians guidelines for use.
  • Other treatments may be directed at a specific cause. 

Related Links: