Eating Well As You Get Older

Frequently Asked Questions

26. What can I do about constipation?

People often worry too much about having a bowel movement every day. There is no right number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Being regular is different for each person. For some people, it can mean bowel movements twice a day. For others, movements just three times a week may be normal.

Constipation is a symptom, not a disease. You may be constipated if you are having fewer bowel movements than usual and your stools are firm and hard to pass. Not getting enough fiber or fluids can cause constipation. Some medicines can cause constipation, too.

If you're often constipated, ask your doctor for advice. Eating more foods that contain fiber like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains might help. Drinking plenty of fluids can also help prevent constipation.

See examples of foods that have fiber.

Physical activity can help keep your bowel movements more regular, too. Use of bulk-forming products or occasional use of laxatives can also help. Talk with your doctor to learn more about these products.

To see examples of exercises for older adults, see Exercises to Try. Or visit Go4LifeĀ®, the exercise and physical activity campaign for older adults from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

For more information, see Concerned About Constipation?, an Age Page from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at NIH.