Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer. Constipation is a common complaint, which is simple to prevent and easy to treat most of the time. Rarely, it may be a sign of a more serious problem that requires medical treatment. In some cases, medical tests may be ordered by your physician.

Normal Bowel Function

The colon (large intestine) stores, processes and gets rid of fecal waste. It also absorbs some water and electrolytes. The rectum (the bottom section of the colon) stores fecal waste prior to it exiting through the anus. The range of "normal" bowel function varies greatly from person to person. The belief that one should have a bowel movement every day is inaccurate. This often leads to needless worry and even the misuse of laxatives. In general terms, bowel movements should:

  • Occur at least once every third day
  • Not exceed more than three per day
  • Pass easily and not require excessive straining
  • Result in a feeling of complete elimination