Occasional constipation 101: causes, symptoms and treatments
Occasional constipation can happen to anyone from time to time and when it does, it’s natural to have questions about how to find relief for occasional constipation. Below we’ll answer some of the most common questions about it, as well as offer guidance on how to get rid of constipation and how to maintain regularity.
WHAT IS OCCASIONAL CONSTIPATION?
If you’re experiencing occasional constipation, you aren’t alone. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems and is estimated to affect about 16% of adults in the United States.(1)
Constipation refers to bowel movements that occur less than three times each week. The stool is often dry and/or small, making it difficult or even painful to pass.(2) Other symptoms can be pain or bloating in your abdomen.(3)
HOW LONG DOES OCCASIONAL CONSTIPATION LAST?
There isn’t a set time. While many people experience occasional constipation from time to time, talking to your healthcare provider about your occasional constipation symptoms is a good place to start and might reduce any anxiety you may be feeling.
WHAT CAUSES OCCASIONAL CONSTIPATION?
Occasional constipation can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are:
A diet low in fiber
- For men under 50, the daily recommended amount of fiber is 38 grams; for women, it’s 25 grams. For men and women 51 and older, the recommendation is 28 grams and 22 grams, respectively.(4)
Lack of movement
- Sometimes not getting enough physical activity during the day can lead to constipation. This can be due to things like health issues which limit movement, jobs which require little movement, or not getting enough exercise.
- Some medications can cause constipation, including over-the-counter medications like antacids or iron supplements, and many prescription medications for example medications for high blood pressure, Parkinson’s, depression, and many pain medications like opioids.
Changes to routine
- Alterations to your daily routine can result in constipation. For example, illness, travel, and pregnancy can alter the natural rhythms your body follows for bowel movements.
Holding it or waiting too long
- When someone ignores the urge to go to the bathroom, over time their body may stop recognizing the natural signals to go.(3)
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FIND RELIEF FROM OCCASIONAL CONSTIPATION?
The good news about occasional constipation is that it’s often relatively easy to treat and prevent. When looking for occasional constipation relief, there are a couple actions you can take.
1. Increase your fiber intake. Adding more fiber to your diet can help stool form and keep you regular. You can do this by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and whole-grain foods or by taking a fiber supplement. If you choose a supplement, the type of fiber is important, too. Certain types of fiber, like the plant-based psyllium in Metamucil, absorb water and do not ferment in the intestines.(5) By absorbing water and staying intact in the digestive system, the fiber can help to keep stool softer so it moves more easily through the colon.
2. Drink more liquids, especially water. Getting more liquids and staying hydrated helps keeps your poop softer, helping it move more easily through the colon.
3. Get more exercise. Physical activity helps increase muscle activity in your intestines, which will also help keep you regular. Try to fit in activity most days of the week, even if it’s just a brisk walk or taking the stairs at work.
4. Don’t ignore the urge to go to the bathroom. As we mentioned before, when you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, go. It may also help if you can take your time and don’t feel rushed or stressed.
5. Try to have a regular bowel movement. Some people find that going to the bathroom at a specific time each day can help your body create a new routine.
Before you begin making these changes, we recommend that you speak with your healthcare professional. The two of you will be able to talk about what solution works best for you.
1American Gastroenterological Association, Bharucha AE, Dorn SD, Lembo A, Pressman A. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement on constipation. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(1):211–217.
5McRorie JW Jr. Nurt Today 2015 50(2):82-89. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25972618
*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.
†Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 7 grams of soluble fiber per day from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. One serving of Metamucil has 2.4 grams of this soluble fiber. One serving of Metamucil capsules has at least 1.8 grams of this soluble fiber.
**Survey of 291 adults who self-reported that they felt lighter and more energetic after completing the Metamucil Two Week Challenge.
^P&G calculation based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its ScanTrack Service for the Digestive Health category for the 52-week period ending 04/27/19, for the total U.S. market, xAOC, according to the P&G custom product hierarchy. Copyright © 2019, The Nielsen Company.