Laxatives pp 5-10 | Cite as

Constipation: The Rationale for Laxative Use

  • Francesco Capasso
  • Timothy S. Gaginella


It is not easy to define constipation; everyone seems to have their own concept based upon personal experience. The frequency of bowel movements varies greatly in individuals, so that “constipation” for one person may be normal for another. Some patients complain of an uneasy or a full feeling in the abdomen and believe they are constipated, even though they have had a bowel movement that day or the day before. Others may have a bowel movement every day but, because the stool is small in amount or requires straining to pass, they claim to be constipated. According to Thompson (1979) who studied the average frequency of bowel movements among the general population (post office employees, nurses, London factory workers and rural patients), about 70% had daily bowel movements, of which 7% considered themselves constipated, despite the fact few reported hard or infrequent stools. Twenty percent of the subjects in these groups used laxatives regularly. There is a rather antiquated idea, especially among many elderly patients, that it is healthy and necessary to have a bowel movement every day. This has contributed to confusion by preoccupying these individuals with unfounded concern that they need a laxative if they go more than a day without a bowel movement.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome Anorexia Nervosa Bowel Movement Functional Constipation Laxative Abuse 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia, Milano 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Capasso
    • 1
  • Timothy S. Gaginella
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PharmacologyUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  2. 2.School of PharmacyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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