Constipation is when your bowel motions and wind are difficult to pass and infrequent. It may be caused by not moving around as much, eating less fibre, or not drinking enough fluids. Strong pain medicines, some anti-nausea medicines and some chemotherapy drugs also cause constipation.

How to manage constipation

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables and fibre-rich foods (e.g. prunes) unless your doctor advises otherwise.
  • Try to exercise every day.
  • Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist to find the exercise that is right for you.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines for constipation if it’s caused by chemotherapy or other medicines.
  • Try over-the-counter laxatives such as Coloxyl with senna, Duphalac or Movicol, but check the dose with the pharmacist and let your doctor know. Don’t wait too long before starting laxatives.
  • Call your treatment team or 000 if you have symptoms of a bowel obstruction (described above).
  • For more on nutrition, and eating well during and after cancer treatment, see Nutrition and Cancer.

This information was last reviewed in May 2017
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