Constipation remedies such as taking a fiber supplement or eating high fiber foods and performing a colonic massage may help move things along. Other remedies can include taking a laxative or using a suppository or enema.

Constipation occurs when you pass fewer than three bowel movements per week or have bowel movements that are hard and difficult to pass. This can lead to excessive straining and time spent on the toilet.

The causes of constipation vary, and it’s typically considered a symptom of an underlying issue, rather than a condition. Some possible causes of constipation may include dehydration or eating foods with too little fiber. In other, more serious cases, constipation can result from stress, hormonal changes, spinal injuries, muscle problems, cancers, and structural problems affecting the digestive tract.

According to a 2014 study, the average whole gut transit range is about 10 to 73 hours. But your exercise and eating habits, age, sex, and health status all affect the number of bowel movements you experience on a given day. While there’s no set number of bowel movements that you should have, it can possibly be dangerous to go three or fewer times per week.

Read on to learn more about how you can alleviate both short-term and long-term constipation and when you should get advice from a doctor.

If you’re experiencing constipation, the following quick treatments can help induce a bowel movement in as little as a few hours.

1. Take a fiber supplement

Fiber supplements are readily available and effective at inducing bowel movements if a low fiber diet is the cause of your constipation. They work by adding bulk, or volume, to your stool. This helps push stool through your intestines and out of your body.

You can buy fiber supplements in stores or online. Here are a few common ones:

  • calcium polycarbophil (FiberCon)
  • psyllium (Metamucil, Konsyl)
  • methylcellulose (Citrucel)

2. Eat foods for constipation relief

Eating foods that are high in fiber can help you find relief from constipation, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Foods that are high in fiber can include:

  • oats
  • whole grain bread or cereal
  • whole wheat pasta
  • fibrous fruits, such as apples and bananas
  • fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, and leafy greens
  • brown rice
  • beans and lentils
  • split peas
  • nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, and almonds

Be sure to drink lots of water with these foods, as it will further help push your stool through your system.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid foods that could potentially make constipation worse, such as:

  • chips and other low fiber snacks
  • meat
  • prepared foods, such as boxed and frozen meals
  • fast food items
  • processed foods, such as certain frozen meals, deli meats, and hot dogs

3. Drink a glass of water

Proper hydration is necessary for regular bowel movements. Researchers recommend about 1.8 liters — or about seven to eight 8-ounce glasses — of clear liquid per day. The exact amount your body needs can depend on your size, sex, and whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re constipated and haven’t been drinking an adequate amount of water, consuming a large glass of water or other clear liquid may trigger a bowel movement.

4. Take a laxative stimulant

Laxative stimulants are designed to force a bowel movement by squeezing the intestines and may take up to 6 to 12 hours to take effect. You can get stimulants over the counter (OTC) at your local pharmacy. Some popular options include:

  • bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Ducodyl, Correctol)
  • senna sennosides (Senokot)

According to the NIDDK, laxative stimulants are primarily recommended for severe constipation that doesn’t respond to other treatment methods. You also shouldn’t use laxatives until possible secondary causes of constipation have been ruled out.

5. Take an osmotic laxative

The way osmotic laxatives work is slightly differently from how stimulant laxatives work. They’re designed to help move fluids through the colon. Some examples include:

  • magnesium hydroxide (Phillips Milk of Magnesia)
  • polyethylene glycol (PEG) (MiraLAX)
  • magnesium citrate
  • lactulose (Kristalose)

It’s important to keep in mind that osmotic laxatives tend to work a bit more slowly than stimulant laxatives. You can expect them to work within 2 to 3 days.

With a doctor’s prescription, you can obtain higher strength PEG (GoLYTELY, NuLYTELY).

6. Try a lubricant laxative

Lubricant laxatives such as mineral oil help by adding a slick coat to your intestines’ walls and the stool mass. This allows stool to retain water and move through your colon and out of your body more easily.

7. Use a stool softener

One common cause of constipation is dehydration, which can cause hard stool. Using a stool softener, such as docusate sodium (Colace) or docusate calcium (Surfak), can moisten the stool by pulling water from your intestines. This allows the stool to exit your body more easily.

8. Try an enema

There are several types of enemas that you can try. Enemas work by softening stool enough to produce a bowel movement. Enemas use liquid to push stools out of the rectum. They can be purchased at a pharmacy or online.

Some common types of enemas include:

  • sodium phosphate (Fleet)
  • soapsuds
  • tap water enemas

9. Try a suppository

Some treatments for constipation are available as rectal suppositories. These suppositories are inserted into the rectum to help encourage bowel movements by softening stool.

Common types include glycerin or bisacodyl suppositories, which you can find at your local pharmacy.

10. Get in a squat position to poop

Bring a small footstool into your bathroom the next time you need to poop. Placing your feet on a stool in front of the toilet while you poop — so your body is essentially in a squatting position instead of in a seated position — can help you pass stool without straining.

11. Get some exercise

Light exercise, such as walking, yoga, or jogging, can encourage bowel movements by increasing blood flow throughout your abdomen.

12. Try colonic massage

Manually massaging the colon can help stimulate the bowels for people whose constipation is caused by the slow movement of stool through the colon.

A 2021 study suggested that an automatic abdominal massage device helped reduce stool transit time in people with chronic constipation.

13. Try natural remedies

Some natural remedies, such as consuming probiotics, may be helpful in treating and preventing constipation, with some studies noting increased stool frequency after taking these supplements. While considered safe for most people, there are certain instances in which probiotics may be harmful. For instance, they typically shouldn’t be used in immunocompromised individuals.

You should also talk with a doctor before taking any herbs or teas for constipation relief. While 2019 research suggests that some herbal combinations, such as clover, fennel, and senna, may help constipation, herbal supplements may interact with other OTC and prescription medications you may take.

In children, constipation is defined as having fewer than twobowel movements per week. Like constipation in adults, constipation in children can lead to hard stools that are difficult to pass.

An estimated 3 percent of children worldwide are thought to have “functional constipation,” which refers to constipation that has no underlying cause. If your child is experiencing constipation, you can help by increasing their water and fluid intake, along with encouraging regular exercise.

Small children who are toilet trained may also benefit from regular sessions on the toilet at the same time every day, for about 5 to 10 minutes at a time, preferably after a meal.

If your child’s condition still doesn’t improve after 1 week, you should see a pediatrician. Additional symptoms that require immediate treatment in children with constipation can include:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal distension
  • fever
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • constipation that occurs before your baby is a month old

Constipation is also common during pregnancy — especially in the third trimester. It can also occur shortly after you give birth.

In such cases, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends increasing your fiber intake through food to achieve a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. As you increase your fiber intake, it’s important to drink more water, too.

Stool softeners may be safe for use during pregnancy when used on a short-term basis. If you don’t find relief after making dietary changes, talk with a doctor about which options may be safest.

Occasional constipation may be relieved with the help of first-line medications, such as OTC laxatives or stool softeners. But chronic, or ongoing, constipation may require prescription medication.

Constipation may be caused by another condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If that’s the case, treating the cause may help your symptoms. Constipation can also be idiopathic, which means it has an unknown cause or begins spontaneously.

Options for treatment may include:

  • linaclotide (Linzess) or plecanatide (Trulance), which can help promote bowel regularity for people with idiopathic constipation or IBS
  • lubiprostone (Amitiza), which can help soften stools and increase bowel frequency by increasing fluid in the digestive tract
  • prucalopride (Resolor), which can promote bowel regularity in long-term idiopathic constipation

The long-term safety of prescription medications for constipation is under debate, so it’s important to talk with a doctor about other options for chronic constipation before taking them.

Severe constipation that doesn’t respond to dietary changes or traditional laxatives may benefit from the use of a laxative stimulant. If you find that you can’t pass a bowel movement without taking laxatives, talk with a doctor.

Biofeedback therapy may provide another option. This therapy may help you retrain the colon muscles to produce regular bowel movements.

Sometimes, severe constipation may be linked to an underlying medical condition that requires surgery, although this is typically considered a last resort. Examples include surgeries to correct a rectal prolapse or blockage or to remove the colon.

The above advice can help encourage a quick bowel movement to relieve short-term discomfort. However, some of the following lifestyle changes can also keep your constipation at bay more permanently. For regularity, try to make these tips part of your daily habit:

  • If possible, add more fiber to your diet. Add fiber by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grains. You should consume at least 22 to 34 grams of fiber per day, depending on your age. If you need to take a fiber supplement for chronic constipation, start with a low dose and then increase it slowly. For some people, consuming a large amount of fiber can lead to bloating.
  • Consider exercising most days of the week if you can. This can include a daily walk, jog, bike ride, or swim or another form of exercise. Light exercise helps maintain proper circulation and can keep the bowels healthy.
  • Consume plenty of liquids (mostly water and other clear liquids) every day. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of clear liquids per day.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Avoid “holding in” your stool. Also try to have bowel movements around the same time each day.

Chronic constipation can make it challenging for a person to focus on their daily tasks and activities. If your constipation lasts more than a week and doesn’t respond to treatment, it’s time to talk with a doctor to rule out serious causes. Talk with a doctor right away if your constipation is accompanied by dizziness, fatigue, cramping, or spasms.

Constipation happens when you pass fewer than three bowel movements per week or have bowel movements that are hard or difficult to pass without straining.

Home remedies for constipation can include increasing your fiber intake or taking a laxative, using a suppository, or taking a stool softener. Trying out a squat position, doing light exercise, or performing a colonic massage may also help.

If you experience constipation regularly or constipation that lasts longer than a week, discuss your symptoms with a doctor. They can check for other conditions that may play a role in your constipation and prescribe a medication to help.

If your symptoms also include dizziness, fatigue, cramps, or spasms, see a doctor immediately.