Health Tip: When Constipation Requires a Doctor's Appointment
While most instances of constipation aren't serious, occasionally, cases of infrequent or difficult bowel movements should be evaluated by a doctor.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers this list of warning signs that you should talk to your doctor about constipation:
- You're constipated for the first time or it occurs for you very infrequently.
- You've been treating constipation at home with more fiber, fluids and exercise for at least three weeks, but have no improvement.
- You have abdominal pain.
- You have bloody stools.
- You have unexplained weight loss.
Health Tip: Prevent Constipation
It's not true that to be considered regular, you have to produce a bowel movement at least once daily, the American Academy of Family Physicians says.
The "normal" range varies widely -- between three times a day and three times a week, the academy says.
Here are its recommendations to help prevent constipation:
- When you need to have a bowel movement, try not to ignore it.
- Make time to have a regular bowel movement, such as after a meal.
- Get plenty of fiber in your diet, drink plenty of fluids every day, and get regular exercise.
- Avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat.
- Don't take laxatives too frequently. Overuse can actually damage your bowels and aggravate constipation.