Straining to have a bowel movement, hard stools and infrequent stools (once every 4-7 days) may be defined as constipation.  When this occurs out of the blue in persons over 40 years old, the colon should be examined.  Often, however, this is a chronic condition due to deficient intake of fluid and fiber, and a lack of exercise.  Sometimes, this is a genetic problem, with too few muscle and nerve cells in the colon, and subsequently, a “sluggish” bowel.

The fundamental elements of treatment are:

1. Fluid intake of 64 ounces or more daily.

2. Increase fiber intake (fruits, vegetables, bran) and add fiber supplements (Metamucil, Citracil, Benefiber, Fibercon) daily.

3. Walk or jog 3-5 times per week, building up to 1-2 miles each session.

4. If all of the above measures are not helpful then gentle laxatives or medication to stimulate the colon may be appropriate.