Many of us who suffer from constipation silently may be surprised to know that in most cases the solution to constipation is not that complicated. Just increasing your fiber intake not only helps in constipation relief for most people, it also has other health benefits. You can read about the other health benefits throughout this web site. For now read how fiber helps in providing constipation relief …
Just as bowel habits differ from person to person, so does the presentation of constipation. You may have constipation if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, straining or difficulty passing stool, or stool that is hard and dry. There are many different reasons you may become constipated. Certain health conditions, a diet low in carbohydrates, fiber, or fluid, depression, pregnancy, and some medications may all cause constipation. Small changes in your diet and lifestyle can help promote regular bowel habits to prevent or treat constipation.
Gradually increasing dietary fiber to at least 25 grams per day can help generate more regular bowel movements. There are two different kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which helps water remain in the stool to soften it, includes nuts, seeds, beans, and apples. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, allowing it to pass more quickly through the gut.
Some examples of insoluble fibers include wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables. In addition, limit your intake of foods without fiber such as meats, cheese and processed foods. Increasing water intake and exercising 20-60 minutes 3-5 times a week will also help promote regular bowel habits.
These changes will not provide immediate relief from constipation, and may take 3-5 days (or longer) to take effect. If you do decide to treat with an over-the-counter product, you may find your choices to be overwhelming. There are many products which work in different ways to relieve constipation:
MiraLax (polyethylene glycol): MiraLax is a good choice for occasional constipation. It softens the stool by holding water in the intestine and takes between 12 and 96 hours to work.
Fiber: In most cases, fiber laxatives are safe and effective. These include products such as Metamucil, Citrucel, and Fibercon. These need to be taken with a full glass of water, or they may cause further constipation. This is a good choice for occasional constipation and should take effect in 12-72 hours. Fiber is the best option for treatment of constipation in pregnant women.
Glycerin suppositories: Glycerin suppositories are very safe for occasional use. They cause more fluid to enter the colon, softening the stool, and provide relief within 15-30 minutes.
Stool softeners: Stool softeners like Colace (docusate sodium) help prevent constipation by increasing the amount of water in the intestine, and they usually work within 12-72 hours.
Osmotic laxatives: Osmotic laxatives such as Citroma or Milk of Magnesia will also help treat constipation. These bring water into the intestine and work within 30 minutes to six hours, but have more side effects such as nausea, cramping, or dehydration. These cannot be used if you have kidney problems, heart failure, or are taking certain medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before use.
Stimulant laxatives: Dulcolax (bisacodyl) and Senokot (senna) are examples of stimulant laxatives which signal the colon to contract, aiding in bowel movements. These are a good option if your constipation is caused by taking opiates for pain. These may cause cramping and typically work in 6-24 hours.
Regardless of what you choose to treat your constipation, do not use longer than seven days unless under physician supervision. You should always to talk to your pharmacist before starting any new over-the-counter medications to ensure that they will be safe and effective for you to use.
Note: if you have constipation with severe pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, or blood in your stool, or if your constipation lasts longer than 2 weeks, seek prompt medical attention.