Constipation tends to affect women more than men. It is also more common in older adults, people who are immobile, or people who have a diet that does not contain enough fibre. If you have a child with constipation see our page on constipation in children.
In most cases constipation lasts a short time and is not serious. But for some people, it causes ongoing discomfort and affects their ability to go about their daily tasks. In this case, constipation needs proper assessment by a doctor.
People can become constipated for no apparent reason, starting as early as childhood and continuing through life. Unexplained constipation affects women more often than men. Common causes of constipation include:
The two most important things most adults can do to ease or prevent constipation are to be as active as possible and to ensure their diet contains plenty of fibre and fluid.
Medications used to treat constipation are called laxatives. Treatment with a laxative is needed only if the self care measures above do not work well. There are several types of laxatives that differ in how quickly they start working, how helpful they are in different situations, possible side effects, their taste and their cost. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you on a suitable laxative for your needs. The four main groups of laxatives are:
Laxatives are available in different forms.
Laxatives should be used only as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist and not for longer than advised. Read more about laxatives.
Certain foods have a natural laxative effect and eating them can help relieve constipation:
In most cases constipation lasts a short time and is not serious. But for some people, it causes ongoing discomfort and can interfere with their ability to go about their daily tasks. In this case, constipation needs proper assessment by a doctor. You should also see your doctor if:
Constipation Ministry of Health NZ, May 2014Constipation Gastro-info New ZealandBulking agents or fibre supplements NZ Formulary NZ, 2015Chronic Constipation in children University of Virginia Health System (US), Nov 2011