Cramping? Gas? Bloated stomach? Straining to pass stools? Don’t ignore these symptoms if they go on too long.
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Nearly everyone has bouts of constipation now and then. But people’s symptoms vary widely. Some experience painful stomach cramps. Others get a bloated stomach. Still others feel uncomfortable, as if their bowels aren’t empty even after using the toilet. What constitutes normal bowel movements for you could be completely different for someone else.
So how can you tell if you’re constipated? Generally constipation is described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. If you’re not going to the bathroom as often as usual, or if you’re straining because your stool is too dry and hard to pass, you could be constipated.
Most of the time, constipation is nothing to be concerned about. Depending on the cause, your body should return to its normal rhythm within a few days. This is known as occasional constipation. However, when it starts to linger on, it becomes chronic.
Chronic constipation is defined as constipation that’s lasted over three months. Symptoms include:
Constipation may be considered chronic if you’ve experienced two or more of these symptoms for the last three months.
Although constipation may seem embarrassing to talk about, don’t let it go on for too long. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about changes in your bowel habits. Fortunately, there are many ways to get relief from making simple lifestyle changes to using laxatives.