Feature Article

Helping patients with constipation

Katherine Ellard, Allison Malcolm



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.