Constipation treatments such as taking fiber supplements, eating high-fiber foods, and massaging the colon can get things moving. Other treatments may include taking sedatives, suppositories, and enemas.
What is constipation?
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week or having hard or difficult bowel movements. This leads to excessive stress and time spent in the toilet.
The causes of constipation vary, and it is often considered a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition. Some causes of constipation can be dehydration or eating foods that are too low in fiber. In other, more serious cases, constipation can be caused by stress, hormonal changes, spinal cord injury, muscle problems, cancer, or structural problems affecting the digestive tract.
According to a 2014 study, the average total intestinal transit time is 10-73 hours. But your exercise, eating habits, age, gender, and health can all affect the number of bowel movements you have on any given day. There’s no specific number of bowel movements you should have, but fewer than three bowel movements per week can be dangerous.
Read more about how to relieve short-term and long-term constipation and when to consult a doctor.
Tips for immediate relief of constipation
If you’re constipated, the following quick remedies can help stimulate bowel movements within hours.
- Take fiber supplements
If the cause of your constipation is a low-fiber diet, fiber supplements that stimulate bowel movements are readily available and effective. These work by increasing the size of the stool. It helps the bowel to move the stool out of the body.
You can buy fiber supplements in stores or online. Here are a few things in common:
calcium polycarbophil (FiberCon)
psyllium (Metamucil, Konsyl)
- Eat foods that relieve constipation
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a trusted source, eating foods high in fiber can help relieve constipation.
Foods high in fiber can include:
whole grain bread or cereal
fibrous fruits such as apples and bananas
fibrous vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and leafy greens
beans and lentils
Nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and almonds
Be sure to drink plenty of water with these meals, as this will help move your stool through your system.
In addition, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that can make constipation worse, such as:
chips and other low-fiber snacks
ready meals such as boxed and frozen meals
fast food products
and processed foods such as some frozen meals, deli meats, and hot dogs
- Drink a glass of water
Proper hydration is necessary for normal bowel movements. Researchers recommend drinking about 1.8 liters, or 7 to 8 ounces, of clear liquids a day. The exact amount you need depends on your size, gender, and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re constipated and haven’t been drinking enough water, drinking a glass of water or other clear liquid can stimulate a bowel movement.