Why Does Pain Medication Cause Constipation?
For most people, narcotic pain medication will usually cause some mild constipation. These medications actually cause the bowel movements to slow down as digested food moves through the intestines. When this happens, the stool will become much harder, since more fluids will be extracted as it slowly makes its way through the digestive tract. If you are experiencing hard bowel movements, or not experiencing movements as often as usual, then you could be constipated.
This poses a significant issue, especially given the number of people who are currently taking prescription pain medication. Clinical trials on constipation have shown that people could be experiencing issues for as long as they are taking their medication. For this reason, it is important that you know how to prevent and treat constipation.
How Do You Prevent Constipation?
It is recommended that if you are planning to take narcotic pain medication that you should be prepared to experience at least some mild constipation. What does this entail? Well, you may want to learn how one can avoid factors which could make your constipation worse. This is something that you can also discuss with your primary health care provider at the time that you start taking your medication. They should also be able to help you identify some of the symptoms of constipation.
If you are going to develop a proper plan for preventing constipation, then it should certainly include the following:
- Consume foods that are known for helping to relieve constipation.
- Be sure to eat plenty of high fiber foods or roughage. So, this would mean adding more raw vegetables, fruits, and whole grain breads and cereals. Other things that you may want to consider picking up could be bran or prune juice. You can even sprinkle bran on some of your meals during the day.
- Remember to stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water per day should help to keep your stool softer. Warm drinks can also help produce a smoother bowel movement.
- Remember to get regular exercise at least three to four days of the week. If you are unsure what to do, you can discuss your fitness options with your primary health care provider.
- If you are able, try and plan out your bowel movements for the same time each day. The most optimal time is following a meal, so be sure to have some extra time to visit the toilet.
Stool Softeners and Laxatives
Many of the people who are taking prescription pain medication will require the help of something extra to relieve their constipation. This could require stool softeners and/or laxatives. Of course, laxatives should never be taken lightly, and this is something that you will want to discuss with your doctor before taking on your own.
In fact, your doctor may suggest taking a more pre-emptive approach to combating constipation, such as a regular dosage of laxatives even before you have become constipated. There are currently a wide range of laxatives available, but many of these are constipation relievers that require a prescription. Your doctor should be able to help you choose the type of laxative that will work best for your situation.
Bulk Laxatives and Fiber
Constipation treatments like bulk laxatives and fiber (a well known example would be something like Metamucil) work by absorbing water and expanding to increase the level of moisture and bulk in the patient’s stool. However, clinical research has shown that these are not the optimal treatments for constipation that has been caused by narcotic pain killers. Plus, these can only be taken if you are able to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Suppositories and Enemas
Both enemas and suppositories can be used in addition to these other treatments in order to relieve more chronic cases of constipation. However, it is not recommended that you use an enema in order to avoid constipation on a regular basis. Obviously, you’ll want to discuss these options with your primary health care provider before making them a part of your constipation treatment plan.