Treatments Available for Constipation
For people who are struggling with constipation, sometimes making a change to their diet and lifestyle could help relieve their symptoms and regain regular bowel movement control. In other cases, chronic constipation may require additional medical treatment to be relieved. In the end, patients need to remember that an effective course of treatment for constipation will take some time and perseverance.
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Diet & Lifestyle Changes
High-Fiber Diet: When you are able to maintain a diet that contains at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber on a daily basis, the body is able to form softer, bulkier stool. Some healthy high-fiber foods include fresh fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and beans. If you are dealing with constipation, make sure you limit low fiber choices like meat, cheese, and other processed foods.
Drink More Water: In order to maintain more regular bowel movements, you should be drinking plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. Water is used in the digestion in order to soften the stool as it works its way through the digestive tract.
Regular Exercise: Be sure to get more exercise on a regular basis, as this helps to stimulate digestion and intestinal activity.
Make Time for Bowel Movements: This is something that is often overlooked when treating constipation, but you should try and set aside a sufficient amount of time for a bathroom visit. It is important not to feel rushed while on the toilet, and you do not want to ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
Laxatives and other over-the-counter medications should only be taken into account when alterations to your diet and lifestyle have not helped alleviate your constipation. Please note that some of these can become habit-forming. Various types of laxatives include:
Fiber Supplements: Also known as bulk laxatives, fiber supplements are considered to be one of the safest types of laxatives. Common examples include Metamucil, FiberCon, Serutan, Citrucel, and Konsyl. You’ll need to drink plenty of water when taking fiber supplements.
Stimulants: These will induce rhythmic contractions in the intestines. Common examples include Dulcolax, Correctol, and Senokot.
Lubricants: As you may have guessed, lubricants allow the stool to pass through the colon a lot more smoothly. Common examples include Fleet and mineral oil.
Stool Softeners: These will work to moisten the stool and can also help prevent further dehydration. Common examples include Surfak and Colace.
Osmotics: This type of laxative can help push fluids through the colon. Common examples include Sorbitol, Cephulac, and Miralax.
Saline Laxatives: These will actually sponge up water into the patient’s colon in order keep the stool moving smoothly. Common examples include Haley’s M-O and milk of magnesia.
There are some in-office or surgical procedures which doctors may recommend when lifestyle changes and medication was not able to alleviate a patient’s constipation. These procedures include the following:
Manual Procedures: In order to clear a patient’s colon of retained or compacted stool, your doctor may have to manually break up the stool (a procedure known as disimpaction). This procedure involves a doctor inserting a gloved finger and manually breaking up the retained feces. Then the patient will be given a laxative enema which will soften up the stool and provide further lubrication to induce a bowel movement.
Surgical Procedures: In cases where the patient is struggling with chronic to severe constipation and the more traditional treatments have not worked, they may need surgery to relieve their condition. During the procedure, surgeons may choose to remove a portion of the patient’s colon (mainly the problem segment or segments of the anal sphincter or rectum).
Treating the Underlying Causes of Constipation
For some people, there could be an underlying condition which is causing their constipation. When this is the case, doctors will need to treat the cause instead of the constipation. If a pelvic floor dysfunction is the root cause, then biofeedback may be used to treat the condition. This is a retraining technique which can help the patient learn how to better coordinate their muscles in order to induce a bowel movement.
It is also not uncommon for pregnant women to become constipated, so they should remember to eat more high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If you are pregnant, you’ll also need to drink plenty of fluids and get regular exercise when possible. You can talk to your doctor about forming an appropriate plan of action for treating your constipation.