mature age

Constipation as we age

mature age

Constipation is a problem that affects everyone – no matter what age you are – but it can become more of a problem as you get older. You do not have to put up with the discomfort and worry that constipation can bring.

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Up to 20% of 40–50 year olds and nearly 40% of people over 74 years have reported experiencing constipation.

Why do I get constipated?

Constipation, even if you are otherwise healthy, can be caused by lifestyle factors such as:

  • Dehydration – not taking enough water
  • Poor diet – or having a diet low in fibre
  • Being sedentary – the less mobile you are, the more of an issue constipation can become

Constipation can also be a side-effect of certain medications you may be taking, or the consequence of various conditions that become more common as we get older, such as:

Some of these medications include:

  • Antacids (calcium and aluminium)
  • Some antidepressants
  • Some diuretics
  • Iron supplements
  • Some pain killers (such as opiates)

Some of these conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease

It is important when taking any medication to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the possible side-effects they may have and the best way to minimise them.

Other factors that can contribute to constipation include:

  • Ignoring the need to go to the toilet
  • A change in routines or diet, for example, when travelling
  • Periods of illness, when you may not be eating properly or are confined to bed
  • Surgery

Sometimes there may be more than one factor contributing to your constipation.

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What can I do if I get constipated?

There are various ways to help relieve constipation, but it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first, particularly if you have been constipated for a while.

Lifestyle changes you can make to help manage constipation include:

  1. Making sure you are eating regular, well-balanced meals – included fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain breads and cereals to add bulk to your stool and help you stay regular
  2. Drinking plenty of fluids – about 2 L or 8 cups a day (unless you have been advised to limit your fluids)
  3. Being as active as you can each day
  4. Not ignoring the urge to use the toilet
  5. Maintaining a regular toilet time; going in the morning or soon after a meal when the bowel is most active can help; make sure you have plenty of time and don’t rush
  6. Think about how you ‘go to the toilet’ – positioning on the toilet can be important, using a squatting position with your knees above your hips and leaning forward is the best position.  Using a small footstool may help.


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lifestyle change

Which constipation treatments can help?

lifestyle change

Lifestyle changes are usually the first step in treating constipation. It is important to talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the different lifestyle changes you can safely make before trying anything.

If lifestyle changes don’t bring you adequate relief, then you may need to use a laxative for a short time. The type of laxative that is best suited to you will depend on several things including other health conditions you may have, and the medications you are taking – so it is important to seek advice before taking any laxative. Coloxyl offers a range of stool softeners that can be selected based on the severity of your constipation and whether you are looking for gradual, or faster overnight relief.


Why is constipation in older adults common?

We’re more likely to have constipation as we age.

As you get older, your intestinal muscles contract more slowly and less strongly, which can slow down bowel movements. Also, as we age we tend to use more medicines, and some medicines can cause constipation.

There are other causes of constipation for older adults. If you’re concerned, have a chat with your doctor.

How often should an older adult have a bowel movement?

Although it’s probably ideal to have a bowel movement every day, the normal range for all adults is from 3 a day to 3 a week.

Generally speaking, as long as your stools aren’t hard, painful, or difficult to pass, having as few as 3 bowel movements a week is still in the normal range.

Is constipation in older adults more serious?

Constipation is common in older adults. That’s mainly because as we age, our gut movement slows down, meaning we poo less often. What’s more, as we age we often need to take medicine, and some medicines cause constipation. 

Most cases of constipation in older age are no different to those experienced at other times of life. These cases can be treated with lifestyle changes or an appropriate laxative. Make sure you check in with your GP if eating more fibre, drinking more water and exercising haven’t eased your constipation.

See your GP if you’ve got constipation along with any of the following:

• Blood in your stool or bleeding from your bottom.
• Strong stomach pains or trouble passing wind.
• Throwing up or fever.
• Losing weight without trying.
• Lower back pain.