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Feature Article

Helping patients with constipation

Katherine Ellard, Allison Malcolm

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Abstract

The perennial problem of constipation is still best treated with simple measures such as improving diet, mild exercise and adequate fluid intake.

Key Points

  • Constipation is common, particularly in women and in those aged over 65 years.
  • A thorough history and physical examination is required to assess patients with constipation.
  • Many patients with constipation respond to increased fibre and fluids.
  • Check for medications that may cause the constipation.
  • Fibre supplements and laxatives are useful in people who do not respond to dietary change.
  • A simple rule of thumb for calculating the amount in grams of daily fibre that is adequate for children is the child’s age plus five.

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