Loose bowel motions may be due to an infection (gastroenteritis) but if the symptoms persist for more than 3 weeks then other conditions need to be considered. Sometimes the problem is......


  • Normal bowel habit (frequency of bowel motions) varies greatly from person to person.

    • For 9 out of 10 people this is between one bowel motion every 3 days to 3 bowel motions per day.
    • A bowel habit outside of this range is more likely to be abnormal.

  • Constipation can be defined as

    • Having  less than one bowel motion per 3 days and having symptoms of abdominal bloating, lower abdominal discomfort and nausea.
    • AND / OR a sensation of difficulty passing a bowel motion with excess straining and hard bowel motions.
    • It is possible to have significant constipation even with a bowel movement once per day if that movement is small or ineffective.
    • This is usually, but not always, associated with the symptom of incomplete emptying. That is a feeling that there is "still more to pass".
    • Sometimes there is a sensation of a "blockage" with straining. This problem can be defined as "obstructed defecation". This symptom usually relates to problems with co-ordination of pelvic floor muscles or to underlying problems such as prolapse of the rectal mucosa or a rectocoele (section on "obstruction" for further details).



  • Management is discussed in detail in the next sections

  • There are a wide variety of treatment options

  • The simple advice to have a high fibre diet, take plenty of water and have regular excercise can be helpful for many but if this doesn't work then you need to read on...!!

  • My pick for best three laxatives suitable for long-term use

      • Kiwi Crush  - a glass a day of concentrated kiwi fruit juice - or simply kiwifruit juice (e.g Nekta - can be combined with aloe vera juice)
      • Molaxole  (active ingredient - macrogol or PEG; previously called Lax-sachets or Movicol) -  a sachet of powder that draws in or retains water in the colon
      • Magnesium capsules  - like old-fashioned Epsom salts in a capsule (more details in section on osmotic laxatives)

  • Constipation is more common in the elderly (see section).
  • Many people find that they develop constipation with travel (see section).
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