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Constipation in adults - What treatments work for constipation in adults?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Lots of people get constipated from time to time. Usually it lasts for just a few days and clears up without any treatment. But occasionally constipation doesn't go away, and it may get worse.

Key points about constipation in adults

  • Exercising and eating more fibre are likely to help. You could also try drinking more fluids, although there's less research to show this is likely to ease your constipation.

  • Constipation that lasts a long time is often treated with medicines called laxatives. Laxatives help your bowels to move.

  • There are several types of laxatives. Some make your stools softer. Others stimulate your bowel muscles. Fibre supplements make your stools bigger and easier for your bowels to push along. Researchers haven't looked at all the different types of laxatives. But studies have been done on some of them and show that they work.

  • The type of laxative that might work for you depends on your symptoms. Some laxatives can give you diarrhoea if you take them too often. So it may be best to see your doctor before starting treatment.

Which treatments work best? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works. We've looked separately at treatments for children who are constipated. To read more, see our information on Constipation in children.

Treatments for constipation in adults

Treatments that work Treatments that are likely to work Treatments that need further study



Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.


Laxatives are medicines that empty your bowels by making you go to the toilet more often than usual.

For more terms related to Constipation in adults


For references related to Constipation in adults click here.
Last Updated: August 06, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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