What is constipation?

A useful definition of constipation is the infrequent passage of stool (less than three stools a week) that is difficult and painful to pass. Symptoms include feeling bloated, straining, abdominal pain, and gas.

What are common causes of constipation?

Some common causes of constipation include: poor dietary habits, such as low intake of dietary fibre or an inadequate fluid intake, lack of exercise and certain medications.

Why a stool softener?

Stool softeners, like docusate sodium, help draw water into the intestine making it easier for hard, dry stools to pass through. Learn How Senokot® is made >

How does senna help ease constipation?

The sennosides (or senna glycosides) found within the senna plant stimulate a series of comfortable wave-like contractions called peristalsis to help encourage bowel movements.

What exactly is fibre and what does it do?

Fibre is the portion of the food that is not digested–in other words, it is not completely broken down by the stomach. Fibre increases bulk and softens the stool by absorbing water, which helps prevent constipation.

Why do we experience constipation?

As food moves through the colon, water is absorbed leaving waste products or stool. The muscles that line the colon contract in a wave-like motion to push the stool down toward the rectum. By the time the stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed. However, if the muscles of the large intestine are sluggish, the colon will absorb too much water and the stool will become dry and hard, resulting in difficult painful bowel movements.

What happens if chronic constipation goes untreated?

If left untreated, occasional constipation may lead to complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction.

How can constipation be avoided?

Common ways of avoiding constipation include being more physically active, consuming more dietary fibre
(between 26–35 grams/day), and drinking more water (at least 2.2 L or 9 cups/day).

When is a laxative necessary?

A laxative with a stool softener can help provide comfortable relief when constipation is accompanied by hard, dry stools. The laxative provides the muscle contractions to move the waste through the colon, while the stool softener ( i.e., docusate sodium) softens the stool for added comfort.

What is considered a "normal" bowel movement?

Everyone has their own "normal". For some, it's three times a day. For others, it's three times a week. Normal isn't about quantity, it's about quality. Straining, pushing or discomfort are signs of constipation.

ADDITIONAL FAQs QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

When should you not take a laxative?

Do not use a laxative if you have abnormal constrictions of the gastrointestinal tract, potential or existing intestinal blockage, atonic bowel, appendicitis, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, abdominal pain of unknown origin, undiagnosed rectal bleeding or severe dehydration with depleted water or electrolytes.

Where can I buy Senokot® products?

The Senokot® Family of Laxatives can be found in many popular and convenient stores across Canada including:

  • Canada Safeway
  • Costco
  • Jean Coutu
  • Lawtons
  • Loblaws
  • Canadian Superstores
  • Overwaitea Food Group
  • Rexall
  • Pharmasave
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • PharmaPlus
  • Uniprix
  • Walmart

Can certain medications cause constipation?

Yes, they can. If you're experiencing constipation while on medication, consult with your healthcare professional. A laxative may be in order.

What's the history with senna?

Records from the 9th century AD reveal Arabian physicians using the senna plant to help ease symptoms associated with constipation. Throughout history, wherever the senna plant grew, ancient tribes from the Aztecs to the Cherokee took advantage of its naturally gentle digestive properties.

How much fibre is found in different fruits?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Fruit Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Passion Fruit 125 mL (½ cup) 6.5
Avocado 100 g (½ fruit) 2.1
Pear, raw with skin 1 medium 1.1–1.5
Prunes, dried 3 1.1
Figs, dried, cooked 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.9
Orange 1 medium 1.8
Apricots, raw, with skin 3 1.4

How much fibre is found in different vegetables?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Vegetable Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Brussels sprouts, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 2
Sweet potato, cooked, skinless 125 mL (½ cup) 1.8
Potato, with skin 1 small 1.1
Turnip, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.7
Edamame (soybean greed, cooked) 125 mL (½ cup) 1.5
Broccoli, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.8–1.3
Peas, green, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.8–1.3

How much fibre is found in different cereals?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Cereal Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Bran buds (with psyllium) 30 g ( cup) 2.7
Oat bran, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.2
Oatmeal, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 1.4
Oat flakes 250 mL (1 cup) 1.5
O-shaped cereal 30 g (1¼ cup) 1.2
Barley, pearled, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.8
Brown rice, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.5

How much fibre is found in different bread products?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Bread Product Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Muffin, oat bran 57 g (1 medium) 1.4
Crisp bread crackers 3 crackers 0.9
Raisin bran muffin 57 g (1 medium) 0.8
Whole wheat bread 30 g (1 slice) 0.6–1.0
Pasta, cooked (whole wheat and white) 125 mL (½ cup) 0.5
Rye bread 35 g (1 slice) 0.6–1.0

How much fibre is found in different legumes (beans)?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Legume Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Beans, black, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 5.4
Beans, lima 175 mL (¾ cup) 5.3
Beans, kidney, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.6–3.0
Tofu, fried pieces 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.8
Beans, canned with pork & tomato sauce 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.6
Chickpeas, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.1

How much fibre is found in different nuts & seeds?

Use the chart below to help plan your daily menu with the 26–35 grams of dietary fibre recommended to help avoid constipation.

Nut/Seed Amount/Size Fibre (Grams)
Soy nuts, roasted 60 mL (¼ cup) 3.5
Flaxseed 60 mL (¼ cup) 2.5
Flaxseed, whole 15 mL (1 tbsp) 0.6–1.2
Hazelnuts, whole 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.1
Sunflower seeds, dry roasted 60 mL (¼ cup) 1.0
Flaxseed, milled/ground 15 mL (1 tbsp) 0.4–0.9

How many Senokot® Tablets can be taken per day?

Senokot® Tablets (standardized sennosides) use natural senna to help provide comfortable overnight relief for better results in the morning. Adults should not exceed 4 tablets twice a day. Children should not exceed 2 tablets twice a day.

Dose Times Per Day
Adults 2–4 tablets 1–2
Pregnant women 1–2 tablets 1–2
Children aged 6–12 1–2 tablets 1–2
Senokot® Laxative Tablets: Available in packs of 10, 30 and 100

How many Senokot®•S Tablets can be taken per day?

Senokot®•S Tablets (standardized sennosides with docusate sodium) combine natural senna with a comfortable stool softener. Adults should not exceed 4 tablets twice a day. Children aged 6–12 should not exceed one tablet twice a day.

Dose Times Per Day
Adults 2–4 tablets 1–2
Pregnant women Consult a physician Consult a physician
Children aged 6–12 ½ to 1 tablet with full glass of water 1–2
Senokot®•S Laxative plus Stool Softener Tablets: Available in packs of 10, 20 and 60

How much Senokot® Chocolate-Flavoured Syrup can be taken per day?

Senokot® Syrup (standardized sennosides) is for those who prefer liquid over tablets. Adults should not exceed 2–3 teaspoons (10–15 mL) twice a day. Children should not exceed 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) twice a day.

Dose Times Per Day
Adults 2–3 teaspoons (10–15 mL) 1–2
Pregnant women 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) 1–2
Children aged 6–12 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 mL) 1–2
Children aged 2–5 Consult a physician Consult a physician
Senokot® Syrup: Available in 100 mL, 250 mL and 500 mL bottles

Does drinking more water really help manage constipation?

Drinking more fluid (2.2 L or 9 cups of water or juice a day) can help avoid constipation. Also, try staying clear of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or cola. They can cause frequent urination. That leaves less fluid for the digestive tract, which may result in constipation.

Can regular exercise really help manage constipation?

Regular physical activity is beneficial to many aspects of your health–including managing bouts of constipation. Walking, running, biking, swimming and yoga are all great ways to tone and strengthen the colon wall. Exercise also increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the digestive tract.

Can stress and anxiety really cause constipation?

The physical effects of stress and anxiety can cause a variety of changes within the body that may result in constipation. If antidepressant/antianxiety medication is being prescribed, a healthcare professional may also recommend a laxative with stool softener to help manage constipation. If stress is a factor, include a couple of the following simple relaxation techniques throughout the day:

  • Take 5 minutes and listen to a favourite song or style of music.
  • Take 5 minutes to focus on breathing. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths.
  • Reach out to friends, preferably face-to-face, for support and a fresh perspective.
  • Get up and take a 5-10 minute walk outside. Breathe deeply.
  • Take a green tea break–green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that calms the body.
  • Take a YouTube break. Laughter is a natural relaxant.

What are some surprising causes of constipation?

Obvious causes of constipation include a low-fibre diet, not drinking enough water, ignoring the urge to go to the washroom, certain medications and a lack of physical activity. There are, however, other possible causes that may not instantly come to mind. These include:

  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid may cause constipation as it slows the body's metabolism–including the speed at which food digests.
  • Excess Dairy: A diet high in milk, cheese and other low-fibre/high-fat foods like eggs and meat have been known to slow digestion, which may cause constipation.
  • Calcium & Iron Supplements: Most vitamins aren't a problem, but an influx of extra calcium and iron may cause constipation.
  • Antacids: Though a convenient and effective way to treat heartburn, the extra calcium and aluminum may result in bouts of constipation.

What is travel constipation?

A change in schedule, diet and time differences can all throw the digestive tract off its rhythm. Help it out by maintaining or increasing water intake and consuming more daily fibre. Avoid long stretches of sitting–taking pit stops when needed and stretching legs before continuing both help to maintain digestive health. A healthcare professional may also advise taking a natural laxative along, like Senokot® Tablets.

Is constipation different in children?

The symptoms of constipation are the same in children as they are in adults, but children can develop constipation differently. Children may be reluctant to use a strange bathroom, worried about having a "bad" experience or interrupt playtime with friends thereby disrupting their natural clock.

A guide to help your discussion with your doctor

Click here to download this doctor discussion guide (PDF) (Opens in a new window) to take to your next healthcare professional appointment to guide your conversation about constipation.

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