Article provided by the National Digestive Diseases Information
Causes of Constipation
Treatment of Constipation
Constipation is passage of small amounts of hard, dry bowel
movements, usually fewer than three times a week. People who are
constipated may find it difficult and painful to have a bowel
movement. Other symptoms of constipation include feeling
bloated, uncomfortable, and sluggish.
Many people think they are constipated when, in fact, their
bowel movements are regular. For example, some people believe
they are constipated, or irregular, if they do not have a bowel
movement every day. However, there is no right number of daily
or weekly bowel movements. Normal may be three times a day or
three times a week depending on the person. Also, some people
naturally have firmer stools than others.
At one time or another, almost everyone gets constipated. Poor
diet and lack of exercise are usually the causes. In most cases,
constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding its
causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find
Who gets constipated?
According to the 1996 National Health Interview Survey, about 3
million people in the United States have frequent constipation.
Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults age
65 and over. Pregnant women may have constipation, and it is a
common problem following childbirth or surgery.
Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal
complaints in the United States, resulting in about 2 million
doctor visits annually. However, most people treat themselves
without seeking medical help, as is evident from the millions of
dollars Americans spend on laxatives each year.