Constipation is generally described as a difficulty or decrease in frequency of passing stools (also known as having a bowel movement). The stools are usually hard and dry.
The normal bowel movement is different from individual to individual and can range from two to three times a day to three times a week. If you notice a decrease in your frequency of bowel movement or have difficulty having a bowel movement, this can be considered constipation.
Constipation can be caused by a variety of reasons such as:
Not having enough water or fluids
Not having enough fibre in your diet
Lack of regular exercise
Not emptying your bowels when you feel the urge to pass motion
Medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy or cancer
Use of certain medications such as
Supplements like calcium or iron
Medications for your heart or blood pressure like Nifedipine or Verapamil
Medications for stomach problems like antacids
Change in your diet, daily routine or lifestyle
The symptoms of this condition can include the following:
Difficulty passing stools
Passing small, hard or dry stools
Feeling like you have not cleared your bowels completely
Constipation can be treated in the following ways and you can approach your pharmacist to get the following medications.
Bisacodyl Tablets or Suppositories
Glycerin Suppository and Gel
Although constipation can be treated without a doctor’s consultation, there are times where the condition might be more serious.
If your condition does not get better in a week or gets worse, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any of the following:
Nausea and/or vomiting
Black or sticky stools
Blood in the stools
Very bad stomach pain or cramping
Very bad stomach wind
Sudden changes in bowel habits, especially if you also have weight loss
Changes in the type/texture of stools
No appetite to eat
History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a medical condition that causes inflammation in your intestines, causing pain, cramping and weight loss
Constipation alternating with diarrhoea
Needing to use constipation medicine regularly (for example, every 2-3 days or more often)
Liquid or soft stools leak out of your anus
Other than using medications to treat the condition, constipation can also be managed by the following methods:
Increase your intake of fluids
Increase your intake of fibre in your diet to encourage bowel movement. However, remember to drink more water, otherwise your constipation might become worse.
The following are some suggestions to prevent constipation from happening again:
Have more fibre in your diet. Examples include vegetables, fruits, cereals and wholegrain breads. You should aim for about 25-30g of fibre every day to encourage bowel movement
Increase the amount of fluids you drink. You should aim for at least six to eight cups of fluid or water a day
Empty your bowels whenever you feel the urge to pass motion
Your sitting position on the toilet can affect bowel function. It is best to lean forward with a straight back, and with feet flat or on a foot stool, so that the knees are above the hips.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist if any of your long term medications can cause constipation and if you can be given another medication instead
This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.
The information above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medicine or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medicine or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem. Under no circumstances will the National Medication Information workgroup be liable to any person for damages of any nature arising in any way from the use of such information.
Last updated on Sept 2022
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
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