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Common-sense steps to find relief for constipation

Common-sense steps to find relief for constipation

Do you find yourself spending a little too much time sitting on the toilet these days? Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find relief for constipation.

Constipation is a common condition affecting the digestive system. While it can affect anyone at any age, it is more likely in people who don’t eat foods with fiber, older adults, women—especially after giving birth and people of color.

If you’ve been struggling with constipation, our Touro team offers some tips below.

What causes constipation

Constipation can affect people in different ways, but in all cases, it disrupts the cycle of regular bowel movements. Some people who are constipated may simply experience fewer bowel movements each week.

Others may have stool that is hard, dry, lumpy or difficult to pass, rather than smooth and easy to pass. Constipation can also cause an uncomfortable sensation that there’s still stool remaining in the body after a bowel movement.

While anyone can experience constipation, it’s more common among pregnant women or women who have recently given birth, young children, older adults and people with low-fiber diets.

Constipation can be caused by slow movement of stool through the colon, a delayed emptying of the colon related to a pelvic floor disorder or certain medical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome. Medications and dietary supplements, such as opioid pain medications, some antacids and iron supplements, can also lead to constipation.

Everyday stressors can also cause constipation. Traveling, switching medications, being stressed or changing your eating habits can affect your bowel movements.

Tips to find relief for constipation

There are a number of strategies for constipation relief:

  • Increase your fiber intake. Eating foods containing fiber, including fruits and vegetables and whole grains, can help firm up your stool. Choose foods with insoluble fiber, such as wheat bran and vegetables, to help food pass more quickly through the body.
  • Get moving to get things moving. Exercising regularly can help to keep you regular. Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine to help your entire body, including your digestive system, function at its best.
  • Drink up. Staying hydrated is important for keeping your digestive system functioning at its best. Drink plenty of water and eat fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as berries, melon, cucumbers and lettuce.
  • When you have to go, go. You can train your body to have a bowel movement—or not. If you put off having a bowel movement when your body says to go, you can cause constipation.
  • Take a look at your meds. Talk with your pharmacist or your primary care provider about whether any of your medications or vitamins can cause constipation. If so, see if there are alternatives that would work just as well.

Looking for more immediate relief? There are options:

  • Enemas loosen up stool stuck in the rectum and the lower part of the large intestine. These medications are inserted through the anus.
  • Lubricants such as mineral oil moisten the colon to allow stool to pass out of the body more easily. They may be especially helpful for people with anal fissures, which are internal tears.
  • Osmotic laxatives use natural salts or undigested sugars to draw water into the large intestine, which loosens stool. Magnesium hydroxide and polyethylene glycol are examples of this type of laxative.
  • Stimulant laxatives work by causing the intestines to contract frequently and forcefully to push stool through the colon.
  • Stool softeners do exactly what they say. By adding moisture, stool softeners make bowel movements easier to pass.

Medications for constipation relief are intended to be used infrequently and may cause harmful effects when used for long periods of time.

If you’re experiencing constipation, talk with a medical provider since constipation can lead to conditions such as rectal prolapse or hemorrhoids. It’s also important to have your symptoms checked out since constipation can be a sign of a more severe health issue.

Tried all the home remedies but still experiencing constipation? The Touro digestive care team is here to help, offering diagnosis and treatment for conditions affecting the digestive system.