Treatment for Constipation
How can I treat my constipation?
You can most often treat your constipation at home by doing the following
Change what you eat and drink
Changing what you eat and drink may make your stools softer and easier to pass. To help relieve your symptoms
- eat more high-fiber foods
- drink plenty of water and other liquids if you eat more fiber or take a fiber supplement
Read about what you should eat and drink to help relieve constipation. Depending on your age and sex, adults should get 25 to 31 grams of fiber a day.3
Get regular physical activity
Getting regular physical activity may help relieve your symptoms.
Try bowel training
Your doctor may suggest that you try to train yourself to have a bowel movement at the same time each day to help you become more regular. For example, trying to have a bowel movement 15 to 45 minutes after breakfast may help, because eating helps your colon move stool.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to have a bowel movement, and use the bathroom as soon as you feel the need to go. Try to relax your muscles or put your feet on a footstool to make yourself more comfortable.
Stop taking certain medicines or dietary supplements
If you think certain medicines or dietary supplements are causing your constipation, talk with your doctor. He or she may change the dose or suggest a different medicine that does not cause constipation. Don’t change or stop any medicine or supplement without talking with a health care professional.
Take over-the-counter medicines
Your health care professional may recommend using a laxative for a short time. He or she will tell you what type of laxative is best for you
- bulk-forming agents such as dietary fiber (Citrucel, FiberCon)
- osmotic agents (Milk of Magnesia, Miralax)
- stool softeners (Colace, Docusate)
- lubricants, such as mineral oil (Fleet)
- stimulants (Correctol, Dulcolax)
You should only use stimulants if your constipation is severe or other treatments have not worked.
If you’ve been taking laxatives for a long time and can’t have a bowel movement without taking a laxative, talk with your doctor about how you can slowly stop using them. If you stop taking laxatives, over time, your colon should start moving stool normally.
How do doctors treat constipation?
If self-care treatments don’t work, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to treat your constipation. If you’re taking an over-the-counter or prescription medicine or supplement that can cause constipation, your doctor may suggest you stop taking it, change the dose, or switch to a different one. Talk with your doctor before changing or stopping any medicines.
Your doctor may prescribe one of the following medicines for constipation
- lubiprostone—a medicine prescribed to increase fluid in your digestive tract, which can help reduce pain in your abdomen, make your stool softer, and increase how often you have bowel movements
- linaclotide or plecanatide—medicines that help make your bowel movements regular if you have irritable bowel syndrome with constipation or long-lasting constipation without a known cause
If you have problems with the muscles that control bowel movements, your doctor may recommend biofeedback therapy to retrain your muscles. By using biofeedback therapy, you can change how you make your muscles work.
Your doctor may recommend surgery to treat an anorectal blockage caused by rectal prolapse if other treatments don’t work. Your doctor may perform surgery to remove your colon if your colon muscles don’t work correctly. If your doctor recommends surgery, ask about the benefits and risks.
How can I prevent constipation?
You can help prevent constipation by doing some of the same things that treat constipation
- get enough fiber in your diet
- drink plenty of water and other liquids
- get regular physical activity
- try to have a bowel movement at the same time every day
Learn more about how you can help prevent constipation with eating, diet, and nutrition.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.