Constipation | Overview

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What is constipation?

Constipation is a common digestive problem that makes it difficult for you to have a bowel movement. Having a bowel movement is also called “passing stool.”

As the food you eat passes through your digestive tract, your body takes nutrients and water from the food. This process creates a stool, which is moved through your intestines with digestive tract muscle contractions (squeezing motions). If you are constipated, your bowel movements may be infrequent. Your stools may be very hard, making them so difficult to pass that you have to strain. Or you may feel like you still need to have a bowel movement even after you've had one.

Constipation is not a disease. Most people experience constipation at some point in their lives. Usually, it goes away and is not serious. If you have chronic (frequent) constipation, talk you your doctor. Chronic constipation may be a symptom of a problem with your diet or a health problem.

 

This content has been supported by Forest Laboratories Inc.

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 08/12
Created: 08/96

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