Constipation is common in both children and adults. Hard stools make it difficult to empty your bowels and can also be painful. The problems can be usually alleviated if you get enough liquids, eat high fiber foods and exercise regularly. If your problems don’t go away, constipation may be a symptom of another disorder that needs to be investigated.


Constipation usually occurs when it takes too much time for food and drink to pass through the large intestine. The intestine may absorb too much water so that the contents become hard and dry when they reach the rectum. Often this occurs because you don’t drink enough or the food is low in fiber. Decreased physical activity can also cause constipation.


The digestive system is sensitive and can also react to changes in diet, stress or other everyday external factors. IBS may be another cause, as both constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms.


Other causes of constipation include:


  • some medicines – for example, antidepressants and  beta-adrenoceptor antagonists
  • diseases – for example, diabetes or metabolism disorders
  • hormonal changes – caused by pregnancy or menstruation.


Constipation develops when the stools form a hard lump in the rectum that increases pressure and is difficult to excrete. It can be painful to empty your bowels and anal fissures or hemorrhoids can sometimes occur. 


Common symptoms in addition to hard stools:


  • Abdominal pain and tight stomach
  • pain when you empty your bowels
  • difficulty in emptying the bowel completely
  • infrequent bowel movements, usually less than 3 stools per week
  • nausea
  • decreased appetite.

Prevention and protection

You can usually both prevent and treat constipation by drinking more water and eating high fiber products such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber binds water and makes stools softer. When you can’t empty your bowel, prunes and figs can help. Try to visit the toilet regularly and remember that physical exercise helps the bowel to work.


If none of the above help, there are non-prescription laxatives in pharmacies that can soften the stool. There you will also find soothing and analgesic ointments to relieve pain around the anus.


In most cases, no treatment is needed – constipation usually goes away after a few days. To make intestinal contents softer, a larger intake of liquid and a high fiber diet is generally required. Some medicines can also help.


In case of severe, persistent problems, stool and blood tests can provide important information for diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes it is important to examine the rectum more closely to determine if constipation is a symptom of a bowel disease.


If the symptoms occur together with other symptoms, the entire disease picture must be weighed to determine which treatment is needed.

When to consult a doctor

If you or your child has severe constipation in combination with severe stomach pain, fever or nausea and vomiting, you should consult your doctor.


You should also seek medical care if you have had bowel problems for more than two weeks, especially if you are over 50 and have not had problems before. In case of involuntary weight loss, you should also seek care.


If you have acute abdominal pain, black or bloody stools, you should get emergency help.

How APPOTEK can help

You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with mild constipation. A nurse or a doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the care meeting. You may then be prescribed treatment or referred for further care. A physical examination may be required in case of stomach upset and pain.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.