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Defined as difficult or infrequent passages of feces, hardness of stools, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation. 

Common Causes of Constipation: 

The excessive hardness of stools without regard to frequency can be caused by physical inactivity, over-dependence on laxatives, postponing the urge to defecate, insufficient fluid and/or fiber intake, or side effects of certain drugs (iron supplements, antacids, antidepressants, narcotics, antihistamines) or medical conditions.

How should I care for myself when I am constipated? 

  • Do not ignore the body’s signals to have a bowel movement.
  • Increase fluid intake (minimum of 8 glasses of water or juice daily)
  • Increase dietary fiber (good sources include fruits (especially citrus fruits, prunes & prune juice) and vegetables; legumes; whole-grain or high-fiber breads and cereals, especially bran) or add fiber supplements (Citrucel, Metamucil). Slowly increase fiber intake over time to limit bloating and gas which can result from increased fiber. The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 20-35 grams of fiber daily.
  • Drink a caffeine-containing beverage each morning, such as coffee or tea.
  • Decrease constipating foods -milk, ice cream, cheese, and white rice
  • Exercise regularly
  • May try OTC medications, the first recommendation would be Miralax or secondary laxatives (Dulcolax, Milk of Magnesia, Senokot). Follow the instructions on the label. Do not use it on a regular basis.
  • May use stool softeners such as Colace (Docusate Sodium) or mineral oil following the recommended package instructions as well.
  • Establish a regular time for elimination (best after meals).

Call the University Health Services or seek medical attention if you develop the following: 

  • Abdominal pain (persistent and moderate to severe), distention, fever, vomiting.
  • Blood in the stool with no history of hemorrhoids
  • Abdominal discomfort (mild and intermittent)
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • No relief with home treatment
  • Chronic constipation


In an emergency go to Mount Nittany Medical Center or call 911 for an ambulance.

Test Results and Advice Nurse

Send a secure message to the advice nurse via myUHS or call 814-865-4UHS (4847) (Press 3). 


Schedule an appointment online or by calling the UHS.  

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis, or treatment by a healthcare professional.

Approved by the UHS Patient Education Committee Revised 01/06/2020

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