Laxatives for Constipation

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

View the Constipation Slideshow

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Constipation Myths and Facts

Digestive Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Constipation Myths and Facts

When should a doctor be consulted for constipation?

Many people have a life-long tendency toward constipation while others have occasional constipation alternating with a normal bowel pattern or even diarrhea. While mild and intermittent constipation in these individuals is usually not a cause for concern, a doctor should be consulted under the following circumstances:

  • A new onset of constipation or recent change in bowel habits
  • Moderate to severe constipation, or constipation that does not respond to self-treatment with simple bulking agents that provide fiber
  • Constipation that is accompanied by rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, or involuntary weight loss
  • Constipation during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

What natural remedies can a person take for constipation?

Mild constipation without an underlying cause (such as medications, an underactive thyroid, or colon obstruction) can often improve with lifestyle modifications that include:

  1. Increase fiber in the diet. Fiber improves bowel function by adding bulk and softening the stool. Examples of foods high in fiber content include:
    • vegetables
    • fruits (include the skin)
    • whole grain breads and cereals
    • prunes
    • whole beans (such as kidney beans and pinto beans)
    • oat bran
    • corn
    • barley
    • over-the-counter fiber supplements
  2. Increase fluid intake. Although this is widely recommended as a treatment for constipation, there are no studies showing that increasing fluids improves constipation.
  3. Regular exercise such as walking, swimming, or running. Similar to increasing fluid intake, although exercise is widely recommended for treating constipation, there are no studies demonstrating its value for constipation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2016
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