The word constipation means many different things to different people. To some it means hard, pellet like stool, or difficulty passing stool, or just not going every day. Constipation can be defined in a variety of ways including opening the bowels less than three times a week, needing to strain to open your bowels on more than a quarter of occasions or passing a hard or pellet-like stool on more than a quarter of occasions.
Many people have been educated or brought up to believe that we MUST empty our bowels on a daily basis and that it is harmful not to do so. This is not the case, the normal range for opening your bowels can be between three times a day, and once every three days. Very few people actually go regularly every day, and in fact some people will take regular laxatives or spend long periods of time on the toilet trying to go due to this misconception of needing to go daily.
Constipation can occur in babies, children and adults, and affects twice as many women as men, and affects between 3% and 15% of the population. It is thought that up to one in six people may suffer with constipation. Older people are five times more likely than younger adults to have constipation, usually because of diet, lack of exercise, use of medication and poor bowel habits. Approximately 40% of pregnant women experience constipation during their pregnancy.