What Should I Do If I Am Constipated
Take these steps:
- Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day, unless your doctor told you to limit fluids for another reason.
- Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
- Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
- Eat prunes and bran cereal.
- Exercise most days of the week. When you move your body, the muscles in your intestines are more active, too.
- Donât ignore the urge to poop.
You can try taking a laxative, too. There are several types of laxatives, and you can buy many of them over the counter. Each of them works in a different way to ease constipation. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which kind might work for you and how long you should take it.
When To See A Doctor About Constipation
If increasing fiber intake, exercise and hydration don’t solve the problem, your constipation may be characterized as chronic. Depending on the cause of chronic constipation, you may need physical therapy or even low-dose laxatives to treat the problem.
For chronic constipation, it’s important to meet with a professional who can help guide you to the right kind of therapy. This is especially important if you have any warning signs of disease, such as weight loss, bleeding or pain, or stools that become pencil-thin and stay that way.
All things considered, you should see a doctor if constipation or any other physical discomfort is interfering with your daily life.
Other Digestive Issues To Watch For
Its common to experience digestive issues other than constipation during your period. You might have diarrhea, bloating, gas, or all three.
These issues happen because of prostaglandins, which are hormones that help your uterus contract and shed its lining, resulting in your period. But they can also wreak havoc on your digestive system.
To help relieve these digestive problems:
- Stay hydrated while limiting sweet or caffeinated drinks.
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How Long Will I Need To Take Laxatives For
If you’ve had constipation for a short time, your pharmacist will usually advise you to stop taking the laxative once your stools are soft and easily passed.
However, if your constipation is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medicine you’re taking, your GP may advise you to take laxatives for much longer, possibly many months or even years.
If you’ve been taking laxatives for some time, you may have to gradually reduce your dose, rather than coming off them straight away. If you have been prescribed a combination of laxatives, you’ll normally have to reduce the dosage of each laxative, one at a time, before you can stop taking them. This can take several months.
Your GP will advise you about when it’s best to stop taking long-term laxatives.
Enjoy A Cup Of Coffee
The caffeine in coffee increases the contractions of muscles within your gut to push things through, Dr. Bedford says. It also contains liquid, which can be beneficial. Too much coffee can dehydrate you, though, so Dr. Bedford recommends drinking water along with your coffee for maximum effect. Not a coffee drinker? Strong tea can have a similar effect.
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Give Yourself A Belly Rub
No reallyapplying moderate pressure and massaging your abdomen in a clockwise direction can help you move your bowels, says Dr. Berookim. Colonic massage has been shown to improve constipation, he says.
This can be performed by applying moderate pressure along the horseshoe shape of the colon in your right lower quadrant. Then continue moving up to the rib cage, across the stomach and underneath the ribs to your left lower quadrant, which is the point where stool is emptied.
Add Beets To Your Shopping Cart
If you feel backed up often, you may want to include beets in your weekly grocery list. Beets are a superfood. Additionally, they are high in fiber, but also high in various sugars, including sucrose, says Dr. Fox. They probably work as a laxative both as a fiber supplement and also as an osmotic laxative much in the same way as prunes do.
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What Should I Expect When I Talk To My Doctor About My Constipation
Talking to your doctor or anyone about your bowel movements is not the most pleasant of topics. Know that your doctor is there for you. Doctors are trained health professionals who have discussed just about every health topic you can think of with their patients.
Your doctor will first ask you questions about your medical history, bowel movements, and your lifestyle and routines.
- What are your current and past diseases/health conditions?
- Have you lost or gained any weight recently?
- Have you had any previous digestive tract surgeries?
- What medications and supplements do you take for other disorders and for the relief of constipation?
- Does anyone in your family have constipation or diseases of the digestive tract or a history of colon cancer?
- Have you had a colonoscopy?
Bowel movement history
- How often do you have a bowel movement?
- What do your stools look like?
- Have you noticed any blood or red streaks in your stool?
- Have you ever seen blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper after you wipe?
Lifestyle habits and routines
- What food and beverages do you eat and drink?
- What is your exercise routine?
Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, which includes a check of your vital signs . He or she will use a stethoscope to listen to the sounds in your abdomen. Your abdomen will also be touched to check for pain, tenderness, swelling, and lumps.
Should I Take Laxatives And Are They Safe
Regular use of laxatives is generally not encouraged but occasional use is not harmful. Things to consider:
- The effects of laxatives are unpredictable a dose that works today may not produce an effect tomorrow.
- Laxatives can cause pain and result in the passage of loose stools especially if the dose is too high.
- Long term use can lead to the bowel becoming progressively less responsive in some people, and in these individuals it may be important to switch to a different agent.
- Certain laxatives will not work in some patients.
- While laxatives and suppositories may ease bowel opening, they dont often help the common problems of pain and bloating.
Nevertheless, the balance of scientific evidence suggests that laxatives do not cause any damage to the bowel and there is no evidence that using them puts you at risk of getting colon cancer. Sometimes doctors will advise people to take laxatives and some people do need them longer term, if your doctor has advised them, they are unlikely to be harmful in the long term. Suppositories or mini-enemas are more predictable than laxatives and tend to be very well tolerated and effective. They are especially useful for people who have difficulty with needing to strain to evacuate their bowel. It may be best to use laxatives only with proper guidance.
Taking laxatives does not result in weight loss, they work on the large bowel and most of the goodness from food is absorbed in the small bowel.
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Eat More Fiber Especially Soluble Non
To treat constipation, doctors often tell people to increase their dietary fiber intake.
This is because increasing fiber intake increases the bulk and consistency of bowel movements, making them easier to pass. It also helps them pass through the digestive system more quickly 01386-6/fulltext” rel=”nofollow”> 14).
In fact, one 2016 review found that 77% of people with chronic constipation benefited from supplementing with fiber .
However, some studies have found that increasing fiber intake can actually make the problem worse. Others report that dietary fiber improves stool frequency but may not help with other symptoms of constipation, such as stool consistency, pain, bloating, and gas .
This is because different types of dietary fiber have different effects on digestion.
There are many different dietary fibers, but in general, they fall into two categories: insoluble fibers and soluble fibers.
Insoluble fibers â present in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains â add bulk to stools and may help them pass more quickly and easily through the digestive system.
Soluble fibers â present in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables â absorb water and form a gel-like paste, which softens the stools and improves its consistency.
Non-fermentable soluble fibers, such as psyllium, are the best choice for treating constipation (
Bottom line: Exercise may reduce the symptoms of constipation in some people.
Black Americans And Constipation
Though recent demographic research on constipation is hard to come by, a widely cited study of data from a survey of more than 15,000 people found that constipation was more frequent in Black Americans than in white Americans, with 17.3 percent of Black Americans reporting the condition compared with 12.2 percent of white Americans. According to the authors of a study published in Quality of Life Research, constipation may be almost three times more prevalent in nonwhite individuals compared with white individuals. Yet, the authors point out, Black individuals are underrepresented in trials for constipation treatments.
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What Treatment Is Available For Constipation
Most treatment is self-managed and based around dietary and lifestyle changes:
- Dietary changes: Regular meals and an adequate fluid intake are the mainstays of treating and preventing constipation. Although drinking more than this is unlikely to make a difference.
- A high fibre diet: this may help some patients with constipation. This should include a mixture of high fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, wholemeal bread and pasta, wholegrain cereals and brown rice. The aim should be to include a high fibre food at each meal along with five portions of fruit or vegetables each day. Some people may find that it helps to eat more fruit and vegetables while others might prefer cereals and grains. Eating more fibre may lead to bloating and can worsen discomfort, so it is important to increase levels slowly. Fibre is most helpful for people with mild symptoms of constipation, however if the condition is severe then continuing to increase fibre may make symptoms worse.
See our information here on fibre:
If you are struggling with your diet, ask your GP for a referral to a dietitian.
For Serious Constipation There Are Options
If your constipation is severe and does not improve withchanges to your diet and lifestyle, there may be other options that you candiscuss with your doctor. Surgery is the very last option.
A wide range of laxatives are available, plus there arepro-motility drugs that a doctor can prescribe. Sometimes at-home remedies canbring relief, too, like dietary vegetable or mineral oil to lubricate thebowels.
Heres the bottom line: Try simple fixes first, but if theyfail, dont suffer needlessly. If you think your bowel movements are not whatyou would consider normal, discuss it first with your primary care physician, whocan talk with you about treatments or refer you to a specialist who can helpget your bowels moving again.
Further Help For Constipation
You will find further information about causes and how its diagnosed on our Constipation information sheet.
If you are concerned about your problem and it is starting to affect your day to day life make an appointment to see your doctor, continence nurse or specialist physiotherapist. A continence nurse and specialist physiotherapist are healthcare professionals who specialise in bladder and bowel problems.
Massage It Out With A Perineal Massage
You probably never thought about massaging the area between your b-hole and genitals , but here you are.
A 2015 study found participants who used perineal self-acupressure reported better bowel function and less constipation. While the research on the effect of perineal massages on constipation remains inconclusive, its a low-risk method that might lend some much-needed relief.
Ideally, this should be done when you have the urge to go but cant.
Heres what to do:
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Alternative And Complementary Therapies
While there are few high-quality studies showing that alternative therapies can effectively treat constipation, a 2015 review of studies published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that acupuncture and herbal treatments like psyllium can make a difference.
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Squat Before You Go To The Toilet
- Lower your body in the squat position
- Stay there for 30-60 seconds
- Lift your body
- Stay there for 30 seconds
- Start all over for 5-10 times
This technique is great for preparation. It relaxes the lower part of your body, and it makes the intestines expand.
These simple steps might be hard to do at first, but they will help you to relax your body. You can practice them when taking a break from work or study.
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Cheese As A Cause Of Constipation
Firstly, cheese is heavy on your digestive system. It has an excess of saturated fats and is one of the super refined and processed foods. This substance, in addition to cholesterol, can stick to your colon walls, blocking it, resulting in constipation. Furthermore, it is a low-fiber foodstuff. Eating too much of such food is a surefire way to disrupt the bowel movements.
Eating a lot of it at one sitting causes the bowel movements to slow down and subsequently leads to constipation. Other dairy products like milk, yogurt, ice cream, etc. also lead to this problem. Apart from saturated fats, cheese also has proteins. Now if you eat a lot of it at one go, the undigested protein or the residue jam the colon. This paves way for hard stools and many other problems.
How Can I Help My Child Live With Constipation
Constipation can be either short-term or long-term . Children with intestinal diseases may have chronic constipation problems. But in most cases, constipation is a short-term condition. If your child has chronic constipation, work with his or her healthcare provider. Together you can create a care plan that is right for your child.
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Causes And Risk Factors Of Constipation
The GI tract, which consists of a series of hollow organs stretching from your mouth to your anus, is responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal.
In your lower GI tract, your large intestine, or bowel which includes your colon and rectum absorbs water from your digested food, changing it from a liquid to a solid .
Constipation occurs when digested food spends too much time in your colon.
It can also occur when your colon absorbs too much water, making your stool hard and dry and difficult for your rectal muscles to push out of your body.
A wide range of factors can lead to constipation. According to the NIDKK, these include:
- Delayed emptying of the colon caused by pelvic floor disorders and colon surgery
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Certain medicines and dietary supplements, including antacids that contain aluminum calcium supplements anticholinergics and antispasmodics anticonvulsants, which are used to prevent seizures calcium channel blockers diuretics iron supplements medications used to treat Parkinsons disease certain pain medications and antidepressants
Other lifestyle-related causes of constipation include:
- Not eating enough fiber
Laxatives Stool Softeners And Other Products
You can buy stool softeners at any pharmacy. They will help you pass stool more easily.
Your provider may prescribe a laxative to relieve your constipation. It may be a pill or liquid. Do not take it if you have severe stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting. Do not take it for more than 1 week without consulting your provider. It should start to work in 2 to 5 days.
- Only take a laxative as often as your provider recommends. Most laxatives are taken with meals and at bedtime.
- You can mix powder laxatives with milk or fruit juice to make them taste better.
- Always drink plenty of water when you are using laxatives.
- Store your laxative medicine safely in a medicine cabinet, where children cannot get to it.
- Do not take any other laxatives or medicines before talking with your provider. This includes mineral oil.
Some people get a rash, nausea, or a sore throat while taking laxatives. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children under age 6 years should not take laxatives without the advice of a provider.
Bulk-forming laxatives such as Metamucil or Citrucel can help pull water into your intestines and make your stools more bulky.
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How Can I Prevent Constipation
Use the same home-based methods you used to treat constipation to prevent it from becoming a chronic problem:
- Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber. Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Fiber and water help the colon pass stool. Most of the fiber in fruits is found in the skins, such as in apples. Fruits with seeds you can eat, like strawberries, have the most fiber. Bran is a great source of fiber. Eat bran cereal or add bran cereal to other foods, like soup and yogurt. People with constipation should eat between 18 and 30 grams of fiber every day.
- Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Liquids that contain caffeine, such as coffee and soft drinks, can dehydrate you. You may need to stop drinking these products until your bowel habits return to normal.
- Exercise regularly.
- Treat mild constipation with a dietary supplement like magnesium.
- Move your bowels when you feel the urge. Do not wait.