Health A-Z

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In many cases, you can prevent constipation by taking the following steps:

  • Add more fiber to your diet Set a dietary goal of 25 grams to 30 grams of fiber daily. Choose from a variety of high-fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, carrots, bran, whole grains and fresh fruits. To avoid bloating and gas, add these foods gradually over a period of several days.

  • Drink adequate amounts of fluid For most healthy adults, this is the equivalent of six to eight glasses of water daily.

  • Begin a program of regular exercise As little as 20 minutes of brisk walking daily can stimulate your bowels.

  • Help train your digestive tract to have regular bowel movements Schedule a 10-minute period to sit on the toilet at approximately the same time each day. The best time to do this is usually right after the morning meal.

  • Do not postpone having a bowel movement until the time is more convenient Respond to the urge without a delay.

  • Use an over-the-counter stool softener or fiber supplement This may prevent occasional constipation. Always follow the dosage instructions exactly as written on the labels of these medications.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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