Top Tip If you notice any persistent change in your bowel habit, such as needing to go to the toilet more often, having looser stool, bleeding from your bottom or stomach pain please visit your GP, as these symptoms could indicate other problems.

It is normal to feel embarrassed about speaking to your doctor about constipation but they are trained to help you. It is important to seek medical advice from a doctor or nurse if you have noticed changes in your bowel habits that concern you, or if you are in discomfort.

When you go to the doctor it can be helpful to make a note of your symptoms to mention, and if you have kept a bowel diary you could take this with you. The list below may be helpful. Try and remember at least three points that apply to you and so that you feel prepared for your appointment:

• Do you feel uncomfortable or distressed?
• Do you spend a long time in the bathroom with little or no results? How long?
• How often do you poo?
• What type of poo do you usually have? Take a look at the Bristol stool chart to identify the type.
• How long you have you been suffering for e.g days/ weeks/ months/years?
• Tell the GP about treatments that you have already tried for constipation including over the counter medicines

The GP is likely to discuss your lifestyle with you. They may suggest trying a course of medication to help regulate your bowel, or they could refer you to a specialist service.

A specialist service will vary depending upon where it is located in the country. Commonly at these services there are Specialist Nurses and Physiotherapists skilled in supporting patients with bowel problems like constipation.

They will take a detailed history from you and work with you to manage your symptoms of constipation. Once again, it is a good idea to take your bowel diary with you if you have been completing one.
With a specialist service, it is again usual for them to start with conservative treatment; this can be small lifestyle changes, as well as positioning on the toilet and reviewing a bowel diary. Further options will be discussed as needed, and you will receive advice and support to help you manage the condition.

This article is part of the Education Spotlight on Constipation, supported by Renew Medical. You can also read more about constipation in our information library here.


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