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5 Ways to Beat Constipation

February 01, 2023

Feeling like you have to go, but struggle when the time is near? You may be constipated. The good news is, you're not alone. “About 80% of people will experience constipation at some point during their lifetime,” says Laura Robbins, PT, DPT, program leader for pelvic health, Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network. If constipation is becoming a regular problem, Dr. Robbins offers insight into common causes and a few at-home remedies. > Connect with the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network

When constipation becomes a concern

Constipation is defined as (fewer than three) bowel movements per week. While brief periods of constipation are normal, signs of a problem can include:
  • Decreasing stool amounts.
  • Feeling the need to strain or push during a bowel movement.
  • Not feeling like you’re completely empty after going.
  • Needing enemas, suppositories and laxatives to help you go.
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Simple solutions you can try at home

It should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete a bowel movement. If your bathroom trips are longer, Dr. Robbins suggests these five ways to treat constipation:
  • Increase the fiber in your diet. Make sure you get a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. Examples of soluble fibers include broccoli and avocado, insoluble fibers include corn and green beans.
  • Drink more fluids - mostly water. Stay away from sugary drinks when possible.
  • Try rotational exercises that help stretch and strengthen mucsles. Start by lying on the floor, crossing your left leg over your right at a 90-degree angle, placing your right hand on your left knee and adding pressure. The left arm and right leg must remain on the floor.
  • Switch up your toilet positioning. Try to mimic a squat position or use stool that goes underneath your feet to help you get into position.
  • Don't fight the urge to go. Urges usually occur 30 minutes after a meal.
  • Try to avoid straining and holding your breath. This applies not only when you're on a toilet, but in your everyday activities.

When to see a doctor

When constipation is an issue for an extended period of time, it may be time to see a doctor. The Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network offers pelvic health rehabilitation for constipation throughout the state. This type of physical and occupational therapies includes an evaluation of your symptoms. After the consultation, your provider will create a plan to improve your constipation.