ZocdocAnswersWhat are the primary symptoms of constipation?

Question

What are the primary symptoms of constipation?

How would a person know if they were constipated? I have trouble moving my bowels sometimes, but it's just slow and difficult, it's not impossible. Is this constipation? If so, should I start taking an OTC medicine? I heard straining is really bad for you.

Answer

Constipation is simply defined as difficulty passing stool without straining, or the infrequent passage of hard stool. Often there can be abdominal discomfort and a sensation of bloating. The most common cause of constipation is dietary. Increasing the amount of liquids, fresh fruit, vegetables, and other sources of fiber will often resolve the issue, as will increasing your level of daily physical activity. If this does not work, you may consider adding an over the counter laxative such as Miralax or senna. Sometimes constipation is related to an underlying medical problem. For example lactose intolerance is common cause of constipation. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause constipation. Celiac disease, which occurs in up to 1% of the population, is a gluten intolerance which can cause constipation, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. As always the diagnosis and the management of your particular concerns will require a physical examination by your personal physician. Setting up an office visit with your primary care doctor is recommended.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.