What Helps With Diarrhea
Over-the-counter medications such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium are generally safe for treating diarrhea, Dr. Deutsch says. The only time you dont want to take them is if you have a GI infection, she adds. And people should also know that Pepto-Bismol can make your stool turn black, which makes some worry that they are bleeding. But this is normal. Whats concerning is blood.
If you can, consider riding out the diarrhea before using an over-the-counter medication, as too much medication can then lead to constipation, Dr. Deutsch points out. Or if you do take a medication, you may just want to take one pill or one dose first, and give it a little time to work, she says.
Diet is also key when dealing with diarrhea. If its a vicious stomach bug, we recommend the BRAT diet of bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast. You want bland things that will help firm up the stool, Dr. Deutsch says.
To avoid diarrhea in general, Dr. Deutsch recommends foods with insoluble fiber, which acts like a sponge and draws water out of your stool. Look for foods with whole wheat flour, wheat bran, and things like beans, nuts, cauliflower, and potatoes.
If you need a supplement, Benefiber works well because it absorbs water from the intestines to form softer, bulkier stool, Dr. Deutsch says.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
There are some symptoms that take constipation from the occasional nuisance to a get-to-a-doctor emergency.
If you haven’t pooped in more than two weeks, even after you’ve tried over-the-counter options like stool softeners and laxatives, you might want to make an appointment with a specialist like a gastroenterologist, Dr. Sonpal recommended.
“Pain isn’t a defining feature of severity,” Elana Maser, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and gastroenterologist at the Feinstein IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Health. “Someone might be more constipated but in less pain, or vice versa. But the fact that it’s extremely painful is absolutely a reason to get help from a healthcare provider.”
If you’re in terrible pain that’s affecting your ability to live your life, see a healthcare provider. “Severe abdominal pain is one of the number one drivers of emergency room visits, and people are often surprised that the cause of this painwhich can sometimes feel worse than labor painsis actually due to constipation,” Dr. Maser said.
How Common Is Constipation In Pregnancy
About 16 to 39% of people get constipated at some point during pregnancy. Youre most likely to get constipated in the third trimester, when the fetus is heaviest and putting the most pressure on your bowel. Constipation can happen in all three trimesters, though. Sometimes, youll continue to be constipated up to three months after the babys born.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Constipation
Symptoms of constipation include:
- You have fewer than three bowel movements a week.
- Your stools are dry, hard and/or lumpy.
- Your stools are difficult or painful to pass.
- You have a stomach ache or cramps.
- You feel bloated and nauseous.
- You feel that you havent completely emptied your bowels after a movement.
Treatment For Severe Constipation
If you’re already backed up, fiber can make constipation worse, according to Elana Maser, MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and gastroenterologist at the Feinstein IBD Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “I would avoid fiber if you’re in a severe stage,” Dr. Maser told Health. “Fiber requires a lot of water intake, and if you don’t take in enough water, the fiber can harden and be even more difficult to pass,” Dr. Maser explained.
Instead, Dr. Bedford recommended starting with a saline laxative like Fleet enemas to try to get things moving. “You have to start to get things moving from below with an enema before taking something from above,” Dr. Bedford explained. Once you can clear some stool out of your system, you can then continue to a laxative like magnesium citrate, MiraLAX, or lactulose to try to clear the rest of your system, Dr. Bedford said.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this process at home, if it’s not helping, or if your constipation has started taking a toll on your well-being, it’s time to seek medical help.
“Severe constipation can require medical intervention if it negatively affects a person’s daily life and cannot be resolved with at-home treatment,” said Dr. Sonpal. Once you arrive at your healthcare provider’s office, what they do next will depend on the severity of your case.
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Inflammatory Bowel Disease And Irritable Bowel Syndrome When To Seek Help
Chronic digestive disorders like IBD and irritable bowel syndrome make life complicated. Though they sound somewhat similar and both involve bowel problems, the more serious condition is IBD, whereas IBS is more of a catch-all category.
Some studies have shown that it can take four to five years to diagnose patients with IBD conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease, says Dr. Gaidos.
Typically, bloody bowel movements will trigger medical care, and it might be Crohns, but not every Crohns patient has bleeding, she says. IBD may cause intermittent abdominal pain and if its nothing specific, women, in particular, may be diagnosed instead with irritable bowel syndrome and a full evaluation is overlooked.
IBS affects twice as many women as men and is a syndrome that can cause abdominal cramping, bloating, and a change in bowel habits. Its cause is unknown and there is no specific test to diagnose it, though a colonoscopy can rule out IBD.
You dont have to tolerate your symptoms… If you have IBD and you used to go to the bathroom 20 times a day and now its 15, dont settle for that.
IBD specialist Jill Gaidos, MD
Dr. Gaidos says she always reminds patients that bleeding is never normal. If you pass a hard stool and there is a tiny bit of blood on the toilet paper, that may be OK, but if there is blood mixed in with your stool, that needs to be evaluated, she says.
Fiber Is Not Always The Answer
If adding fiber to your diet in the form of food orsupplements makes you more bloated and blocked than before, there are a numberof potential reasons. For example, in slow transit constipation, a conditionwhere the bowel does not move things quickly through, fiber sits in your gut andcan make you feel worse.
Long story short: If fiber makes you worse, dont just addmore. See your doctor.
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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.
Fecal Impaction And Back Pain: Whats The Relationship
Fecal impaction arises courtesy of frequent and untreated constipation. As being constipated conditions your colon to be restrictive and builds pressure on itself to tighten and narrow, this causes a build-up of fecal matter.
As time moves forward, this compressed mass becomes significant enough to cause fecal impaction.
Other although less likely causes of fecal impaction include a lack of overall activity and exercise, medication, surgery, and the overuse of laxatives.
Can it be treated? Yes. Dont panic. Although we will warn you, its not exactly the most pleasant of treatments.
DO NOT try to sort this out at home. And dont ignore the symptoms especially if the back pain continues to spread towards your legs.
However, thats one of the worst-case scenarios. Most people only suffer from general constipation.
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Can Constipation Cause Internal Damage Or Lead To Other Health Problems
There are a few complications that could happen if you dont have soft, regular bowel movements. Some complications include:
- Swollen, inflamed veins in your rectum .
- An infection in pouches that sometimes form off the colon wall from stool that has become trapped and infected
- Damage to your pelvic floor muscles from straining to move your bowels. These muscles help control your bladder. Too much straining for too long a period of time may cause urine to leak from the bladder .
Check If It’s Constipation
It’s likely to be constipation if:
- you have not had a poo at least 3 times during the last week
- the poo is often large and dry, hard or lumpy
- you are straining or in pain when you have a poo
You may also have a stomach ache and feel bloated or sick.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, constipation may be easily missed. Look out for any behaviour changes, as it might mean they are in pain or discomfort.
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What Does Constipation Feel Like
Constipation can happen due to one or more breakdowns of the expected pathway where stool is excreted.
These can include slow-moving stool, hard stools, or experiencing a problem with the muscles and nerves needed to pass a bowel movement.
As a result, constipation can feel like many symptoms. Examples include:
- fullness in the stomach or pelvic region
- cramping of the bowels
- aching feeling in the back
Sometimes its difficult to distinguish between discomfort in your stomach and intestines. You might feel cramping or bloating in your intestines that pushes upward on your stomach.
As a result, you could feel stomach discomfort while the area of constipation is really in your intestines.
Sometimes constipation can be a medical emergency.
Dietary And Lifestyle Modifications
Diet: Eating regular well-balanced meals and snacks with high-fibre content, as outlined in Canadas Food Guide, available on the Health Canada website, and maintaining an adequate fluid intake, is the recommended approach to prevent and manage constipation.
Exercise: Exercise helps move food through the colon more quickly. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, accelerates your heart and breathing rates, and helps to stimulate the natural contractions of intestinal muscles.
Physiotherapy: Pelvic dysfunction physiotherapy may include bowel retraining, electrical stimulation, and posture correction.
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Does Not Having Regular Bowel Movements Cause Toxins To Build Up In My Body And Make Me Sick
Dont worry, this usually isnt the case. Although your colon holds on to stool longer when you are constipated and you may feel uncomfortable, the colon is an expandable container for your waste. There is possibly a slight risk of a bacterial infection if waste gets into an existing wound in the colon or rectum.
Home Remedies And Lifestyle Changes
Home treatments for constipation include drinking a cup of coffee, drinking a lot of water, getting some exercise, or using an over-the-counter laxative, Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Health.
If you’re dealing with constipation on a regular basis, it’s worth making changes to your lifestyle to try to get yourself more regular. Namely, increase your fiber intake by eating more fruits and vegetables, consider a high-fiber bran-based cereal, drink lots of water, and try to get regular exercise, Dr. Bedford recommended.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll want to talk with your healthcare provider to figure out what else might be going on and get into a schedule that works for your body. You don’t want to be regularly using laxatives without your doctor’s insight, as laxative overuse can actually lead to more constipation, Dr. Bedford cautioned.
Once you do manage to have a complete bowel movement, it may take a bit of time before your gut is totally comfortable againtypically within 24 hours, Dr. Bedford said. “You’ve just finished stretching the bowel walls. It doesn’t just come back to a normal caliber immediately. There may even be some underlying spasming that’s going on as you are relieving yourself,” Dr. Bedford said.
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How Lifestyle And Diet Can Cause Constipation
If youre constipated, your gut might simply be in sharp disagreement with your lifestyle. Poor diet and lack of physical activity are the most common causes of constipation, so its a good idea to rule these out first before looking into other causes.
Here are some diet- and lifestyle-related factors that can make you constipated:
- a diet heavy in meat and dairy products
- a diet heavy in processed foods, which are high in fat and sugar
- lack of high-fiber foods
- not enough water and other fluids
- too much alcohol or caffeine
- lack of exercise
- ignoring the urge to use the bathroom
Make a few changes to your lifestyle and see if they result in any positive bowel changes. For example:
- Include more high-fiber foods in your meals: fruits, vegetables, whole grains.
- Take a fiber supplement along with a tall glass of water each day.
- Do some form of physical activity for 30 minutes each day, even if its just a long walk.
- Use the bathroom as soon as you have the urge.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
When Should I Call My Doctor
Also, make the call if:
- Constipation is a new problem for you and lifestyle changes havenât helped.
- You have blood in your stool.
- Youâre losing weight even though youâre not trying to.
- You have severe pain with bowel movements.
- Your constipation has lasted more than 2 weeks.
- The size, shape, and consistency of your stool has changed dramatically.
Your doctor may recommend some tests to find the cause of your constipation:
- Blood tests to check on hormone levels
- Tests that show how waste moves through and out of your colon
- Colonoscopy to look for blockages in your colon
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When Should You See A Doctor
Sometimes constipation can be a symptom of more severe illness, including colorectal and other types of cancer. See your doctor or other health care provider if your bowel habits change and are accompanied by any one of the following:
Visit the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases educational page on constipation for more information on possible causes and treatments.
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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Set Yourself Up For Success
Set aside time each day so you can take your time in the bathroom. Allow yourself enough time to have a bowel movement without distractions or feeling rushed. Plus, establishing a routine may help.
“Our lives can get busy, especially if you feel like you’re in a rush to get to work in the morning, but it’s important to not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement,” says Dr. Johal.
Putting some focus on the position of your body during a bowel movement can make a difference, too.
“Some people find that placing a small stepstool under their feet while sitting on the toilet makes bowel movements easier this position can help you flex your hips and place your pelvis in a more natural squat position,” says Dr. Johal.
If none of these changes help unblock you, adding processed or synthetic fiber to your daily diet, or taking a stool softener, a rectal glycerin suppository or laxatives can help.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, call your doctor, says Dr. Johal. They can help you determine what treatments might work best for you.
How Is Constipation Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. This will include asking you about any medicines you take. Your doctor also will ask when you had your last bowel movement and how often you have them. Think about that before you see your doctor. It might be helpful to write it down for yourself or a child before your appointment. During the visit, your doctor may examine your rectum . The doctor will insert his or her finger into your rectum to feel for blockages.
Your doctor may order additional tests, including a blood test and X-ray. A more thorough test is a colonoscopy. This is an invasive procedure done with anesthesia. During this test, your doctor will examine your colon with a long, flexible scope attached to a camera.
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