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Constipation is a condition in which a person has uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements. Generally, a person is considered to be constipated when bowel movements result in passage of small amounts of hard, dry stool, usually fewer than three times a week.  Hard, dry stools are the result of the colon absorbing too much water. Normally, as food moves through the colon (also known as the large intestine) the colon absorbs water while forming stool (waste products). Muscle contractions then push the stool toward the rectum, and, by the time the stool reaches the rectum, most of the water has been absorbed, making the stool solid.


Symptoms may include:


  • difficult and painful bowel movements
  • bowel movements fewer than three times a week
  • feeling bloated or uncomfortable
  • feeling sluggish

Causes may include:


  • medications
  • lack of exercise
  • not enough liquids
  • not enough fiber in the diet
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • changes in habits or lifestyle, such as travel, pregnancy, and old age
  • problems with intestinal function
  • abuse of laxatives

Treatment may include:


  • dietary changes
  • lifestyle changes
  • laxatives
  • eliminating
  • changing medication
  • biofeedback

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Hamilton. Phone: 609-586-7900 Physician Referral: 609-584-5900.

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