To help prevent constipation:

1. Eat a high-fiber diet. Choose lots of high-fiber foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain cereals and breads. Aim to consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Experiment to see if particular fruits or vegetables have a laxative effect for you. Remember to add fiber to your diet gradually to help reduce related gas and bloating.

2. Limit low-fiber foods. Foods that are high in fat and sugar and those that tend to be low in fiber content, such as ice cream, cheese and processed foods, may cause or aggravate constipation.

3. Drink plenty of liquids. The exact amount of water and other fluids you should drink each day varies and depends on your age, s*x, health, activity level and other factors. Limit caffeine intake, which can worsen symptoms of constipation by causing dehydration.

4. Exercise regularly. Engage in regular physical exercise, such as walking, biking or swimming, to help stimulate intestinal function. Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week is recommended.

5. Heed nature?s call. Don?t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. The longer you delay, the more water is absorbed from your stool and the harder it becomes.

6. Try fiber supplements. Over-the-counter products, such as Metamucil and Citrucel, can help keep stools soft and regular. Be sure to drink plenty of water or other fluids every day, as taking fiber supplements without drinking plenty of fluids may worsen constipation.

7. Be careful about introducing stimulant laxatives. Habitual use of agents such as Correctol and Dulcolax can make your colon dependent on them and may require increasing dosages, eventually leading to problems with your intestines. For occasional relief try a saline laxative, such as milk of magnesia, which draws water into the colon to lubricate the stool. Avoid giving children laxatives without a doctor?s approval.

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