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Ninety-five percent of people have between 3 bowel movements a day and 3 bowel movements a week. Infrequent bowel movements are considered 'constipation' if you need to strain, if the stool is hard and pebbly or if you are having bowel movements less than 3 times a week. 

It is essential that you see your health-care team if you are unexpectedly losing weight, have blood in your stool or there is a change in your stools (pencil-like stools or infrequent stools without a change in diet or lifestyle). Your health-care team will need to rule out colon cancer as a cause of your constipation.

Many people have long-term (or chronic) constipation without a serious underlying disease. This can often be caused by a decrease in exercise/activity, insufficient fibre in the diet and/or a decreased fluid intake. Constipation can be uncomfortable and can also have some long-term effects on your health including hemorrhoids, impaction and diverticulitis (infected outpouchings in the wall of the colon). 

There are a number of helpful websites with information about constipation and lifestyle changes. If diet and lifestyle changes do not result in comfortable, regular bowel movements, you should talk to your health-care team about as-needed or daily laxatives.


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