Constipation is a change in your normal bowel movements, going less frequently than you usually do, passing hard, dry stools, or straining when you defecate. Constipation can be acute (coming on suddenly but infrequently) or chronic (long lasting). Most people have constipation at some point. Often dietary changes can relieve the problem. However, constipation can also be a sign of illness, some people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience alternating constipation and diarrhea, for example.

"Normal" bowel movements vary from person to person. Some people go every day, or even 3 times a day; others may go only 3 times a week. Some healthy people may have soft or near-runny stools, while others have firm stools but no trouble passing them.

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Review Date: 12/19/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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