Constipation is a very common condition that affects people of all ages. Waste moves more slowly through your system, so more water is reabsorbed.

You will open your bowels less often than usual and the stools (poo) will be harder, bigger and more difficult to pass, or small hard lumps like rabbit pellets.


You may feel quite bloated, and unwell, passing more wind than usual and perhaps even feeling sick. As well as not passing stools as frequently as you normally do, you may have to strain to go and it may hurt to pass the stools. You may have a feeling that you are unable to totally empty your bowels. Excess wind caused by constipation can cause stomach pains or cramping.


Causes of constipation

Constipation can have many causes, including being physically inactive, a diet low in fibre or not drinking enough water. Hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, menopause and menstruation can all change normal bowel habits in women. Finally, constipation can also be caused by some medicines, the most common being codeine phospate, iron tablets, and some anti-depressants.


Treatment for constipation

There are several medications available from your local pharmacist that can help to relieve temporary problems with constipation. Try increasing your fluid intake of water and soft drinks (not alcohol or caffeine drinks) to soften the stools and increase bowel activity. It is important to eat plenty of fibre, found in grains, fruit and vegetables. See our diet page for further information.


If the problem continues for three weeks in spite of increased fluids, improved diet and physical activity, and reviewing any medication, there may be an underlying problem such as a blockage in your bowel. You should make an appointment with your GP.