Constipation treatments such as taking fiber supplements, eating high-fiber foods, and massaging the colon can get things moving. Other treatments may include sedatives, suppositories, and enemas.
What is constipation?
Constipation is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week, or hard or difficult bowel movements. This leads to excessive stress and time spent on the toilet.
Constipation has many different causes and is often considered a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a disease. Some causes of constipation can be dehydration or eating too little 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 all affect your bowel movements on a given day. There is no specific number of bowel movements, but fewer than three bowel movements per week can be dangerous.
Read more about how to get rid of short-term and long-term constipation and when to see a doctor.
Tips for immediate relief of constipation
If you are constipated, the following quick measures 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 intestines to expel waste from 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 reliable 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 walnuts, pecans, and almonds
Be sure to drink plenty of water with these meals, as this will help your stool pass through your system.
In addition, it is recommended to avoid foods that worsen constipation, such as:
chips and other low-fiber snacks
prepared foods such as boxed and frozen foods
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 1.8 liters, or 7 to 8 ounces, of clear fluids per day. The exact amount you need depends on your size, gender, and whether you are 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 bowel movements.
- Take laxatives
A laxative stimulator is designed to force a bowel movement by compressing the bowel and is effective for 6-12 hours. You can get stimulants over the counter (OTC) at your local pharmacy. Some popular options include:
bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Ducodil, Correctol)
senna sennoside (Senocot)
According to the NIDDKT, a trusted source, laxatives are recommended for severe constipation that doesn’t respond to other treatments. Do not use laxatives until the secondary cause of constipation is resolved.
- Take osmotic laxatives
Osmotic laxatives are slightly different from stimulant laxatives. These are designed to help move fluid into the colon. Some examples include:
magnesium hydroxide (Phillips milk of magnesium)
polyethylene glycol (PEG) (MiraLAX)
It should be remembered that osmotic laxatives work a little longer than stimulant laxatives. You can expect them to work within 2-3 days.
You can get a stronger PEG (GoLYTELY, NuLYTELY) with a prescription.
- Try a lubricant laxative
Lubricants such as mineral oil help to smooth the bowel wall and stool mass. Retains water in the stool and makes it easier to pass through the large intestine.