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Over 60? Don't ignore constipation

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Constipation is common and it affects people of all ages. Don’t ignore constipation, particularly if you’re getting on. If you ignore it, you could end up in hospital when it’s usually simple to treat at home.

Constipation can usually be treated at home with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Checking if you have constipation

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What causes constipation?

Constipation in adults has many possible causes. The most common causes include:

  • not eating enough fibre – such as fruit, vegetables and cereals
  • not drinking enough fluids
  • not exercising or being less active
  • often ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
  • changing your diet or daily routine
  • stress, anxiety or depression
  • a side effect of medication

In much rarer cases, constipation may be caused by a medical condition.

How you can treat constipation yourself

Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can help treat constipation. You may notice a difference within a few days. Sometimes it takes a few weeks before your symptoms improve.

Make changes to your diet, to make your poo softer and easier to pass:

  • drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol
  • increase the fibre in your diet
  • add some wheat bran, oats or linseed to your diet

Increase your activity - a daily walk or run can help you to poo more regularly.

Improve your toilet routine:

  • Keep to a regular time and place and give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet.
  • Don't delay if you feel the urge to poo.
  • To make it easier to poo, try resting your feet on a low stool while going to the toilet. If possible, raise your knees above your hips

Where to go for advice and treatment if the above does not work:

  • NHS website
  • Your local pharmacist who will be able to help with advice about medicines that can help you poo more easily
  • Your GP, if it's urgent
  • If it's severe, call 111