Constipation: Prevention and Treatment
This article was updated on: 09/15/2018
Constipation is a common digestive condition. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), constipation occurs when you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week. Constipation is often characterized by bowel movements with hard, dry, and small stools, making them painful or difficult to pass. Being an older adult is a risk factor for constipation.
How to Prevent Constipation
The Mayo Clinic explains that some simple lifestyle changes may bring constipation relief.
- Increase the fiber you eat. Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains help improve gut function. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults aim for 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your daily diet.
- Get plenty of exercise. Regular exercise can help keep stool moving through the colon and prevent or relieve constipation.
- Drink water throughout the day.
- Use the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to have a bowel movement.
If increasing fiber intake, exercise and hydration don’t bring constipation relief, your constipation may be characterized as chronic or long-lasting. Chronic constipation is infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Constipation treatment for chronic condition
Your doctor will advise you of the appropriate constipation treatment based upon your health status. Constipation treatments, the Mayo Clinic notes, may include the following options.
Your doctor may recommend that you try over-the-counter laxatives to bring constipation relief. Types of laxatives work differently to relieve constipation.
- Fiber supplements add bulk to your stool.
- Stimulants cause your intestines to contract.
- Osmotics help fluids move through the colon.
- Lubricants such as mineral oil enable stool to move through your colon more easily.
- Stool softeners moisten the stool by drawing water from the intestines.
- Enemas and suppositories can soften stool to bring constipation relief.
If over-the-counter laxatives are not effective constipation treatment, your doctor may recommend a prescription laxative or biofeedback. During biofeedback, a therapist teaches you to relax and tighten pelvic muscles that promote bowel movements and prevent constipation.
When other methods of constipation treatment are unsuccessful, your doctor may recommend surgery. The Mayo Clinic notes surgery may be a treatment option when chronic constipation is caused by a blockage, anal fissure (tearing), or stricture (a narrowing of the intestines).
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