Chronic constipation is common among the elderly and women. Doctors prescribe various treatments, and patients often use over-the-counter remedies.

Researchers at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, reviewed the evidence and provide perspective.

Here’s what we know.

  • The standard advice of increasing dietary fibers, fluids, and exercise for relieving chronic constipation will only benefit patients with true deficiency.
  • Biofeedback works best for constipation caused by pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Pharmacological agents increase bulk or water content in the bowel lumen or aim to stimulate bowel movements.
  • The link between senna (stimulant laxative) abuse and colon cancer is unsupported.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Chronic constipation should be managed according to its etiology and guided by the best evidence-based treatment.”

7/20/11 20:44 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.