Symptoms of Constipation
And Bowel Transit Time

The most common signs and symptoms of constipation are:

  • Straining to pass stools
  • Hard, dry stools
  • Inability to defecate when desired
  • Wind, bloating and abdominal discomfort or pain surrounding bowel movements
  • Infrequent or incomplete bowel movements
  • Perception that bowel habits are different from usual

How widespread do you reckon this problem is?

Well, according to sources I've consulted, there's anything between 4 and 30 millions Americans alone who suffer with the symptoms of constipation!

And they spend nearly 140 million dollars a year on over-the-counter laxatives. I'd say that's a BIG problem, wouldn't you?

Bowel Transit Time or Intestinal Transit Time

Intestinal transit time, or bowel transit time, is a newer parameter of constipation that is widely used in preventive health care.

Bowel transit time is the amount of time it takes for food to go from the mouth, through the digestive system and out in the stool.

Reports from the National Institute of Health suggest that a "normal" range of bowel movements is from three to twenty-one each week. While this may show what is "average", it's not a good indicator of what is "normal".

Rather than relying on just symptoms of constipation, most doctors diagnose somebody with constipation when they pass hard stools less than three times a week.

But really what it's normal is to have one to three soft bowel movements each day.

Optimal intestinal transit time is 12 to 24 hours, so if you have only three bowel movements a week, your transit time is 56 hours, which is way too long.

Testing Bowel Transit Time

The average transit time in the Western World is between 48 and 96 hours.

Most of the time this is due to not eating enough high fiber foods or not drinking enough water - Read more on the causes of constipation.

If you think you suffer with symptoms of constipation and you want to find out how long your transit time is you can do the following test:

  1. Buy charcoal tablets at a pharmacy or health food store.
  2. Take 5-10 grams (5,000 - 10,000 milligrams) on an empty stomach.
  3. Note exactly when you took the charcoal.
  4. When you see the darkened stools (charcoal will turn the stool black), calculate how many hours since you took the charcoal tablets. This is your transit time.

You can also do your test with beets or beetroots. Eating 3 to 4 whole beets will turn your stool a deep garnet red.

Evaluating The Results

Less than twelve hours: This usually indicates that you're not absorbing all the nutrients you should from your food. You may have malabsorption problems.

Twelve to twenty-four hours: This is the optimal transit time.

More than twenty-four hours: This indicates that wastes are sitting inside your colon for too long.

Poor transit time greatly increases the risk of colon disease.

Substances that were supposed to be eliminated get absorbed back into the bloodstream and they can interfere with and irritate your system.

Side Effects of Constipation

Although constipation in itself is not a disease but a symptom, it can, in turn, give rise to many different ailments, including appendicitis, bad breath, body odour, coated tongue, depression, diverticulitis, fatigue, gas, headaches, haemorroids (piles), haernia, indigestion, insomnia, malabsorption syndrome, obesity and varicose veins.

It may even be involved in the development of serious diseases such as bowel cancer.

Regular bowel movements are an important mechanism for removing toxins from the body.

The colon serves as a holding tank for waste matter. Constipation may cause the reabsorption of toxins from bowel bacteria and undigested food particles and this may play a role in the development of diabetes mellitus, meningitis, myasthenia gravis, thyroid disease, candidiasis, chronic gas and bloating, migraines, fatigue and ulcerative colitis.

What should you do if you suffer with constipation symptoms? Well, have a look at the next few pages to find out what healing foods can help you solve the problem.


Foods That Relieve Constipation and Constipation Prevention

Best Foods for Constipation (Part 1) - Discussing apples, beans, berries, flaxseed and dried fruit and how they help prevent and treat constipation.

Best Foods for Constipation (Part 2) - Discussing dark leafy greens, ginger, honey, rhubarb, squash and coffee.

Prune Juice for Constipation and Other Health Benefits

Causes of Constipation - Relieve Constipation Naturally

High Fiber Diet Plan

Benefits of Fiber and High Fiber Foods in Your Diet - Increasing fiber in your diet can help preventing and treating many conditions.

Best Fiber Supplement




1) Carper, J., (1993) Food Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Treat Over 100 Symptoms and Problems, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

2) Duke, J.A., Ph.D.,(2008) The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns, New York; Rodale

3) Yeager, S., (2207) The Doctors Book of Food Remedies, New York: Rodale Inc.

Return to Foods' Healing Power Homepage from Symptoms of Constipation


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Causes of Constipation

Symptoms of Constipation and Bowel Transit Time

Foods That Relieve Constipation and Constipation Prevention

High Fiber Diet Plan

Best Foods for Constipation
(Part 1) - Discussing Apples, Beans, Berries, Flaxseed and Dried Fruits

Best Foods for Constipation
(Part 2) - Discussing Dark Leafy Greens, Ginger, Honey, Rhubarb, Squash and Coffee

Prune Juice for Constipation

Benefit of Fiber

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Constipation during Pregnancy