• Overview
  • Causes
  • Treatment
  • Further Reading


Constipation is infrequent, irregular or difficult emptying of the bowels and is a common condition that can affect people of all ages. The severity and symptoms of constipation experienced will vary from person to person. Many people only experience constipation for a short period of time, but for others, constipation can be a longer-term condition that can be uncomfortable and can impact quality of life.


The Bristol Stool Chart, as shown below, is an easy way to understand whether you’re likely to have constipation. Types 1 and 2 are typically classed as stools from someone suffering.


The Bristol Stool Chart


Constipation can have many causes and sometimes, there's no single of obvious cause. Here are some of the most common causes of constipation:


  • Diet - lack of fibre
  • Fluids – not drinking enough water or consuming too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Exercise - lack of movement
  • Stress


Some medicines and medical conditions can cause constipation, but it is advised that you speak to your GP to discuss this further.

a cafetiere and mug of coffee

Lifestyle Changes

You can try to ease your symptoms at home, before seeking medical advice if symptoms persist. You may notice an improvement in a few days, but it can take a few weeks.

Changing Your Diet – increasing fibre and water intake, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption

fibre-rich breakfast

Toilet Routine – attempting to go at the same time each day, but if not possible, ensuring that whenever you do need, you try not to restrict bowel movement

flushing toilet


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If changing your diet and lifestyle doesn’t seem to help, you might need to try a laxative to help ease symptoms. The NICE (national institute for health and care excellence) guidelines recommend a stepped approach, so first trying bulk-forming laxatives and moving along the chain if unsuccessful and constipation symptoms remain.

Bulk-forming (like Fybogel)- increases the weight of the stool, which makes you feel you want to go to the toilet


Osmotic - draws water into the bowel, making the stool softer and easier to pass

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Stimulants (like Senokot) - stimulates the muscles of the gut, making the bowel work harder to move stools along


Still not sure what laxative you should use if lifestyle changes have been ineffective? Take our quiz to know what product is right for you.

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