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Diet, fluid and exercise

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This page has information about how to manage constipation through diet and exercise. You can find information on


Changing your diet

Increasing the amount of fibre you eat and drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent or stop constipation. You can increase your fibre intake by eating

  • High fibre breakfast cereal such as All Bran, Weetabix or muesli
  • Whole meal or granary breads instead of white bread
  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables – raw or cooked, with the skin or peel left on
  • Whole grain rice or pasta instead of white rice or pasta
  • Dried fruit, seeds, nuts or popcorn
  • Potatoes in their skins
  • More beans, pulses, lentils and oats
  • Cakes or biscuits made with wholemeal flour



Drinking plenty of fluids

Remember to drink plenty of fluids if you are increasing your fibre intake. Fibre draws water into the bowel, so you could get dehydrated if you don't drink enough. Drinking plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juice and soups helps to soften your stools and make them easier to pass. 


Drinking between 8 and 10 large glasses of these types of fluids each day can help prevent constipation. But drinking alcohol or large amounts of drinks that contain caffeine, like coffee and cola, can cause dehydration. Always check with your doctor or nurse about how much you should be drinking, and which fluids are best.


If you find it hard to eat or drink enough

It can be difficult to eat a high fibre diet and drink enough if your cancer or its treatment is causing

The hospital or community dietician can help you to plan a diet high in fibre with plenty of fluids. Try to eat your meals at the same time each day because this can help to make your bowel motions more regular.


Gentle exercise

Regular exercise helps to keep your bowel movements regular. Side effects from your cancer and its treatment can make it difficult to exercise. You may feel that you don’t have the energy for it. But a little is better than none.

A short walk each day may make all the difference to keeping your bowel motions soft and regular. Exercise has also been shown to increase energy levels, so you may gradually feel better and be able to do a little more.



If the constipation continues

If your constipation is not getting any better, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people caring for you. Let your doctor or nurse know as soon as you begin to have problems. The earlier you tell them, the easier it will be to treat.

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Updated: 21 May 2014