An overview of Providence Health Care’s services and resources for patients experiencing constipation.


Constipation is when you have infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools.

Bowel movements should be soft and easy to pass. When you have constipation, your stools may be hard, small, and dry or occur fewer than three times a week.

Causes include:

  • not drinking enough fluids
  • not enough fibre in your diet
  • poor bowel habits
  • medications
  • medical conditions
  • diseases


Pacific Gastroenterology Associates
770 – 1190 Hornby Street 
Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2K5

Diagnosis & testing

If your constipation lasts longer than two weeks, you should visit a health care provider. They might refer you to specialists at Providence Health Care.

We will check your vital signs, such as body temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. We will listen to your abdomen with a stethoscope. We'll also press your abdomen to look for signs of pain, swelling or lumps.

Next, we'll perform a digital rectal exam. During this exam, we will feel the inside of your rectum using a finger. We will be respectful of your boundaries and sensitivities during the exam.

Sometimes, we will refer you for other tests. These include:

Treatment & management

Treating constipation often requires several diet and lifestyle changes, including:

We also will likely recommend over-the-counter medicines like stool softeners and laxatives.

  • Stool softeners increase the amount of water and fat your stools absorb so they are easier to pass.
  • Laxatives help your stools move through your intestines. You should not take them for longer than two weeks. Using laxatives for too long can cause your body to become dependent on them.

In rare cases, we will need to do surgery to treat your constipation. Often this is because of a blockage, a narrowing of the intestine (stricture), an anal fissure, or cancer.

We perform surgery for constipation at the Colorectal Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital. During surgery, we will remove a part of your colon and reconnect the healthy parts.

Clinics that treat constipation

Support services

Providence offers a variety of services to support those we care for. The following services may be of use or benefit to you and your families.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344,62937 or email

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.

Clinical trials & research

Advances in constipation treatments are all thanks to medical research. While participating in research is a decision you should make for yourself in consultation with your care team, there is much activity in this area so please ask us about our research programs if you’re interested.

By taking part in research, you can help us all learn more about constipation and find better ways to help people like you live and thrive with the condition. While you cannot assume benefit to yourself, your participation can make a difference in improving care for future patients.

The following clinical trials are currently enrolling volunteers. Please ask your care team for more information or contact the research team listed on each study or trial. For other information about research at Providence Health Care, please visit Providence Research.

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