Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less frequently than three times a week. Many people are prone to this common problem, and there are a number of things that can be done to decrease the chance of constipation developing:
- Drink plenty of fluids, shooting for eight glasses of non-caffeinated, non-alcohol liquid per day.
- Increase fiber rich foods in your diet. By increasing both fiber and fluids, the stool becomes softer, which makes intestinal transit and passage quicker.
- Avoid regular use of enemas and/or laxatives, especially those that contain senna. Over time, these actually slow intestinal function. The exception to this rule is the use of bulk-forming agents, such as Metamucil, Citrucel and Fibercon. These fiber supplements work by drawing water into the stool, making it softer. Drink plenty of fluids (see #1), and start slowly when using these products to avoid gas and bloating.
- Regularly exercise, as this stimulates bowel function.
- Use the bathroom when the urge to have a bowel movement is sensed. Putting off the call of nature can train the body towards constipation.
- Try to avoid certain medications that can constipate, such as opiate pain killers (ie: hydrocodone), and certain anti-depressants (amitryptylline), anti-hypertensives (verapamil) and anti-histamines (Benedryl).
Seek prompt medical evaluation if constipation is accompanied by significant abdominal pain, fever and/or blood in the stool, if the constipation is new or if the constipation lasts longer than three weeks despite home remedies.
If you are a member of North Idaho Direct Primary Care and are experiencing the symptoms of constipation, contact our office to set up an appointment with Dr. Samuel for evaluation. If you are not a member and would like to learn more about our practice, click here for further reading.