Usually, a healthy person empties their bowel every 8–72 hours. If you don’t need to go at least three times a week or you need to strain most times because your stools are too hard, you are considered constipated.
Lack of exercise, insufficient intake of fluids, low-fibre diet, certain drugs, certain metabolic diseases, tumours, anorexia or functional disorders of the bowel can also cause constipation.
The main treatment in constipation is a change of lifestyle and diet. Eating enough fibre and drinking enough fluids is key. Regular exercise and regular emptying of the bowel promote the healthy movement of the bowel and prevent constipation.
Sudden, temporary constipation can be relieved by taking laxatives for a few days to speed up bowel movement. Longer-term constipation is best treated with medication that increases the bulk of the stool.
If your constipation is very persistent, you may take medication that increases the amount of liquid in the large intestine. Consult the pharmacy staff when choosing the best medication for you and follow the instructions carefully.
When should you seek medical advice?
You should seek medical advice if
- you have blood in your stools
- your symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, pain when passing stools or constant fatigue
- the constipation is clearly caused by medication, or it persists despite self-care and affects your daily life
This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto