At least once every few months, I get severely backed up. How do I treat constant constipation? -- Matt, 28, New York

Constipation is very common and can be caused by many things, some normal (changes in routine, having a cold or flu, pregnancy, lack of exercise) others not (medication side effects, thyroid disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes).

There’s no set definition of constipation, though if you’re having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week and the stools are hard and dry, you’re probably constipated.  Over-the-counter laxatives are usually effective for occasional bouts of constipation, though you shouldn’t rely on them because regular constipation is a sign that something is wrong with your digestive tract.  Be sure to exercise regularly, eat a high-fiber diet (unless your doctor advises against it), and drink plenty of fluids.

Some medications—particularly pain medications that contain opioids—can cause constipation, so check with your doctor if you think a medication may be the culprit. In rare cases, constipation may require medical procedures to resolve or be the result of a serious medical condition.

If you’re worried, see a doctor sooner, rather than later!

Dr. Harry Fisch is a board certified urologist. He’s here to answer reader questions in an effort to get guys to “man up about health.”

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