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Constipation - what to ask your doctor

Constipation is when you are passing stools less often than you normally do. Your stool may become hard and dry, and it is difficult to pass. You might feel bloated and have pain, or you might have to strain when you try to go.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your constipation.

Questions

How often should I go to the bathroom during the day? How long should I wait? What else can I do to train my body to have more regular bowel movements?

How should I change what I eat to help with my constipation?

  • What foods will help make my stools less hard?
  • How do I get more fiber in my diet?
  • What foods can make my problem worse?
  • How much fluid or liquids should I drink during the day?

Do any of the medicines, vitamins, herbs, or supplements I am taking cause constipation?

What products can I buy at the store to help with my constipation? What is the best way to take these?

  • Which ones can I take every day?
  • Which ones should I not take every day?
  • Should I take psyllium fiber (Metamucil)?
  • Can any of these items make my constipation worse?

If my constipation or hard stools started recently, does this mean I have a more serious medical problem?

When should I call the provider?

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about constipation

References

Lembo AJ. Constipation. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 19.

Penman ID, Lees CW. Alimentary tract and pancreatic disease. In: Walker BR, Colledge NR, Ralston SH, Penman ID, eds. Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 22.

Review Date 12/1/2016

Updated by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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