Constipation: When Do Things Get Serious? (Don't Need Answer Fast)

DISCLAIMER: I am not seeking medical advice. Really, I’m not. I’m just asking academically. Really.

Anyway, I [mercifully] don’t have any bowel problems knock on wood, but I see plenty of laxative commercials on TV. If a person is pretty regular bowel-wise (say, once a day), after how many days should he reach for the Miralax? When should the doctor be notified?

Also: If a person who isn’t constipated and didn’t have any bowel problems took a dose of Miralax, what would happen to them? A bad case of the shits?

The record was 102 days or something like that. I can’t even imagine.

Me neither. That statistic is what prompted this thread. I saw it on a Buzzfeed video.

Somewhat-related: isn’t this type of thing essentially what killed Heather O’Rourke?

yes, diarrhea. Its over the counter so its safe enough as a single dose.
eating an entire packet all at once can lead to inflamed or even torn anus, rectum , as all the parts work too hard to try to clear the irritant, and that could lead to prolapse of the rectum. or internal infections.

Taking laxatives for too many days in a row can be deadly, as there is fluid and salt loss …

An actual diagnosis of constipation has a 3 month standard. That is, you have to be having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week OR hard stools, straining on defecation or retained feces (you poop, but not completely) 25% of the time for three months.

Most nurses and doctors don’t wait nearly that long before they recommend at least dietary changes, increased water and exercise, bulk laxatives, and stool softeners, though.

It also depends on the age of the patient, any co-morbidities, and how they feel about it. If someone is in a lot of pain, I’m going to intervene a little sooner than someone who just doesn’t poop all that frequently but isn’t bothered by it. If I have a patient with a history of diverticulitis and/or bowel perforation, I’m going to get concerned sooner.

It also depends on what their particular pattern is. The books say people should be pooping at least twice a week, but our bodies don’t read the book. My daughter had one bowel movement a week for her first year and a half. It was on Fridays at 1:30. Very considerate of her, but most importantly, that was her specific pattern, she wasn’t in pain and she didn’t have to strain when she did poop, so her pediatrician was completely unconcerned.

As people get older, they tend to decrease in defecation frequency. This is due to a combination of factors, including eating less and moving less, but again you want to find out what their normal is before you get too concerned.

A sudden severe pain, a swollen belly, a rigid, boardlike abdomen or black stools are emergency call symptoms. Those may indicate a bowel rupture and bleeding. They may happen after someone hasn’t had a bowel movement in a few days, OR they can happen with only a partial blockage, to someone who has been having diarrhea or flat ribbony stools - some fecal matter is passing the blockage or area of constriction, but there’s a boulder of poop partially blocking the pipes.


Miralax is polyethylene glycol, which sold under a different name(s), is part of the standard bowel prep before a colonoscopy. Of course, the dose for that is a little higher. :wink: But yes, it would be expected to at least give you some loose stools, if not outright diarrhea, with or without anal leakage. Fun times.

I was a twice a week pooper for amy many years, sometimes once. After 3 days I am uncomfortable, sometimes moderate to severe pain. As a rule I find a tablespoon of heavy mineral oil works pretty good. Since taking cheese out of my diet I go every day almost unless I am traveling. Nerves played a large part in my problem as my stools were always hard and dry, sometimes like rabbit pellets.

A Dr. straightened me out. told me to remove cheese from my diet and in the morning sit and read with my coffee and continue to sip coffee or tea until I had the urge to go. I found out midway through the second cup I would go.