Constipation treatments such as increased fiber intake and colonic massage can get things moving. Sometimes you may need a laxative, a suppository, or an enema.
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week or having hard or difficult bowel movements. This leads to excessive stress and time spent in the toilet.
The causes can vary, and it’s often a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition. Reasons may include:
eating foods that are too low in fiber
other health problems
According to a 2014 study, the average total intestinal transit time is 10-73 hours. But your exercise, eating habits, age, gender, and health all affect the number of bowel movements you have. There’s no set number you should have, but going less than three times a week is dangerous.
Read more about how to relieve short-term and long-term constipation and when to consult a doctor.
How to get rid of constipation fast?
If you’re constipated, the following quick remedies can help stimulate bowel movements within hours.
- Take fiber supplements
If a low-fiber diet causes constipation, fiber supplements can effectively stimulate bowel movements. They increase the volume of your stool and help your bowels move.
The options are:
calcium polycarbophil (FiberCon)
psyllium (Metamucil, Konsyl)
- Eat foods that relieve constipation
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a trusted source, eating foods high in fiber can help relieve constipation.
Foods high in fiber can include:
whole grain bread or cereal
fibrous fruits like apples and bananas
leafy greens, broccoli, and carrots are examples of fibrous veggies.
beans and lentils
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts
Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that can make constipation worse, such as:
low-fiber snacks like chips
ready meals such as boxed and frozen meals
and processed foods such as some frozen meals, deli meats, and hot dogs
- Drink a glass of water
To ensure regular bowel movements, you need adequate hydration—at least 1.8 liters, or 7 to 8 ounces, of clear fluid per day. The exact amount depends on the following:
Whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you’re constipated and haven’t been drinking enough water, drinking a glass of water can stimulate a bowel movement.
- Take laxatives
Stimulant laxatives compress the bowels, forcing bowel movements, and last for 6-12 hours. Your neighborhood drugstore sells stimulants over-the-counter (OTC). Some options include:
bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Ducodil, Correctol)
senna sennoside (Senocot)
The NIDDKT trusted source recommends laxatives for severe constipation that has not responded to other treatments. They recommend avoiding laxatives until the underlying cause is addressed.
- Take osmotic laxatives
Osmotic laxatives work slightly differently than stimulant laxatives. They help move fluid into the colon. Some examples include:
magnesium hydroxide (Phillips milk of magnesium)
polyethylene glycol (PEG) (MiraLAX)
Osmotic laxatives work a little slower than stimulant laxatives. Two or three days will pass.
You can get a higher strength PEG (GoLYTELY, NuLYTELY) with a prescription.
- Try a lubricant laxative
Lubricants, such as mineral oil, smooth the bowel wall and stool mass. This helps the stool retain water and move it more efficiently through the colon and out of the body.
- Use a stool softener
Dehydration causes loose stools. Stool softeners such as docusate sodium (Colace) or docusate calcium (Surfac) draw water from your intestines to moisten the stool. This will allow the stool to leave the body easily.
- Try an enema
Enemas soften stools and promote bowel movements. An enema uses fluid to push stool out of the rectum.