Gastroenterologist Questions Gastroenterologist

How long is too long to be constipated?

I am a 25 year old male and I am constipated for 3 days now. How long is too long to be constipated?

6 Answers

Bowel movements in normal human beings are twice a day to 3 times a week. If no BM for 3 days, it is considered constipation and one should consider getting a laxative. Otherwise, after 5 days, there is possibility of fecal impaction that could require manual removal of feces.
3 days is too long! You should go every day; if you miss a day, take a stool softener.
Have a question aboutGastroenterologist?Ask a doctor now
First, you should ask yourself if you are under a lot of stress, if you recently "started" or "stopped" a regular food or vitamin (such as coffee, or iron are examples), if you are exercising the way you normally do, if you recently changed your diet, and if you are drinking enough fluids. Changes in these lifestyle type of factors are common causes of temporary constipation. If you return to healthy habits and continue to have "new and unusual bowel changes" you should go to the doctor. If you have started a new medicine such as a pain medication, this could also cause constipation (opiates are the worst culprit). The number of times you go to the bathroom in a week is a personal thing because people are different.
For a healthy person, more than 2 or 3 days can be too long. Should address the problem sooner than later.
Up to 3 days without a bowel movement is considered normal, as long as this has been a typical pattern and there is no discomfort associated with it. However, if this is a departure from the usual bowel habit or there are symptoms of pain, fullness, then a laxative should be considered. Chronic idiopathic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome w/constipation are very common conditions and the first line treatments are over-the-counter medicines such as Miralax, dulcolax, Milk of magnesia, laxative tea, etc.
For the most part, there is no actual time that defines “too long.” Diet, activity, hydration, medications and overall health all play a role in constipation and having “normal” bowel movements. Generally, it takes 3-5 days for waste to travel through the body, so not having a bowel movement for 3-5 days could be considered abnormal. It all depends on how you feel and whether or not you are uncomfortable. Simple things like additional fiber, more water, and moderate activity can alleviate the issue in many people. If this is new and you are uncomfortable, seeking medical advice at that stage would be appropriate.

Steve Goldschmid, MD