Constipation FAQs

TOP 10 FAQs

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.

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.

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 >

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.

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.

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.

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

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).

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
Mango ½ 1.9
Avocado ½ 6.7
Pear with skin 1 5.0
Prunes, dried 3 1.8
Figs, dried 2 1.6
Orange 1 2.3
Apricots, raw 3 2.1

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
Brussels sprouts, fresh or frozen, boiled, drained 4 sprouts 3.2
Sweet potato, baked, peeled after cooking ½ 1.9
Potato, baked, flesh 1 3.4
Turnip (white turnip), cubed, boiled, drained 125 mL (½ cup) 1.6
Edamame 125 mL (½ cup) 4.3
Broccoli, chopped, boiled, drained 125 mL (½ cup) 2.0
Peas, green, frozen, boiled, drained 125 mL (½ cup) 3.7

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
All Bran, Kellogg’s® 125 mL (½ cup) 11.8
Oat bran, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 3.4
Oatmeal, instant, regular 1 packet 2.7
Oatmeal, large flakes/quick 175 mL (¾ cup) 2.6
Cheerios, regular General Mills 250 mL (1 cup) 2.2
Barley, pearled, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 2.0
Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 1.5

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
Muffin, bran, homemade 57 g (1 medium) 3.7
Melba toast, plain 2 crackers 0.6
Whole wheat crackers 4 1.7
Bread, whole wheat, commercial 35 g (1 slice) 2.4
Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked 250 mL (1 cup) 4.8
Bread, rye 35 g (1 slice) 2.0

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
Beans, black, canned, not drained 175 mL (¾ cup) 12.2
Beans, pinto, canned, not drained 175 mL (¾ cup) 8.2
Beans, kidney, dark red, canned, not drained 175 mL (¾ cup) 12.1
Vegetable patty 1 5.7
Beans, baked, with pork, canned 175 mL (¾ cup) 10.4
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), canned, not drained 175 mL (¾ cup) 7.8

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 Total Dietary Fibre (Grams)
Almonds, dried 60 mL 4.2
Flaxseeds, whole and ground 15 mL (1 tbsp) 3.0
Hazelnuts or filberts, dried 60 mL (¼ cup) 3.3
Sunflower seed kernels, roasted, salted 60 mL (¼ cup) 2.9
Walnuts, dried 60 mL 1.7

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

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 1-2 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

Senokot® for Women 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® for Women Laxative Tablets: Available in packs of 25

Yes. Senokot® for Women Tablets (standardized sennosides) may be taken by men. 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® for Women Laxative Tablets: Available in packs of 25

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Women in Canada are nearly 2x as likely as men to experience constipation and the reasons for this are currently unknown.

As with any medication, if you are pregnant or nursing, you should talk to a doctor before taking Senokot® products.

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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