It is estimated that chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) affects over 35 million adults in the United States.

Chronic idiopathic constipation is the difficulty in passing stools. It includes straining, incomplete bowel movements or a feeling of incomplete evacuation after defecation, passing hard/lumpy stools, and a prolonged time interval between two bowel movements.

The causes of chronic idiopathic constipation are unknown but there are several factors associated with chronic idiopathic constipation. These include reduction in fluid and fiber in the daily diet, and changes in water balance.  These factors lead to changes in the way the colon contracts to move food through the digestive tract.

What you can do about chronic idiopathic constipation

There is no cure for chronic idiopathic constipation, but you can manage the symptoms by doing the following:

Change your diet – Increasing fiber in your diet may help create softer stools that are easier to pass. Try eating more foods that are high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, beans and bran flakes.

Be careful to add fiber to your diet slowly to reduce the risk of gas and bloating. Avoid fatty foods, alcohol and caffeinated drinks like coffee or soda, which are commonly known to worsen symptoms.

Drink plenty of water – Drinking six to eight glasses of water per day is important to stay hydrated, which may help pass stools more easily.

Increase exercise, reduce stress – Stress and anxiety can trigger symptoms of several GI conditions. Increasing exercise like walking or yoga, and learning relaxation techniques may help you deal with stressful situations. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Professional medical treatment – For some, changing diet and lifestyle may not be enough. Physicians may also recommend appropriate treatment options for patients based on the nature and severity of their chronic idiopathic constipation symptoms. It’s important that patients inform their physician about treatments that have or have not worked for them in the past.

Over-the-counter products – OTC treatment options such as laxatives and stool softeners are available and approved to treat occasional constipation. These products are not intended for long-term use without supervision of a physician and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for chronic idiopathic constipation treatment.

Prescription medication – There are prescription medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation.

If you are interested in participating in the chronic idiopathic constipation study, please visit the Jean Brown Research CIC clinical trial page.