Harvard Men's Health Watch

Backed-up bowels? Don't get stuck on daily "regularity"

The sign of bowel health is ease and comfort—not necessarily having a bowel movement every day.

Bowel movements are part of the daily rhythm of life. But as the decades march on, the rhythm may beat slower and raise concerns. "Some of my patients are absolutely convinced there has to be a daily bowel movement, but actually there is a lot of variation," says Dr. William Kormos, editor in chief of Harvard Men's Health Watch and a primary care physician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

As many as half of older adults suffer from constipation, and 10% to 18% use a laxative every day. If bowel movements become less frequent, that may be fine as long as they are without straining or pain. But if you have more than occasional difficulty, consider adding fiber to your diet and ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications could be contributing.

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