Dealing with constipation

It is important that patients empty their bowels regularly. Constipation can cause other health problems.
  • Common factors that may cause constipation in healthy people are eating a low- fiber diet, postponing visits to the toilet, using laxatives and enemas excessively, not drinking enough fluids, and exercising too little.

  • More specific causes of constipation include diet, changed bowel habits, immobility and lack of exercise.

  • Certain medications and environmental factors, such as lack of privacy may exacerbate constipation.

  • A medical history and physical examination can identify the causes of constipation.

Treatment of constipation

  • Includes prevention (if possible), elimination of possible causes, and limited use of laxatives.

  • Constipation caused by opioid pain medicine may be treated with a drug given by injection.

  • Patients should keep a record of all bowel movements.

  • Increase the fluid intake by drinking eight 8 glasses of fluid each day (patients who have kidney or heart disease may need to limit fluid intake).

  • Exercise regularly, including abdominal exercises in bed or moving from the bed to chair if the patient cannot walk.

  • Increase the amount of dietary fibre by eating more fruits (raisins, prunes, peaches, and apples), vegetables (squash, broccoli, carrots, and celery), and whole grain cereals, breads, and bran. Patients must drink more fluids when increasing dietary fibre or they may become constipated. Patients who have had a bowel obstruction or have undergone bowel surgery (for example, a colostomy) should not eat a high-fibre diet.

  • Drink a warm or hot drink about one half-hour before the patient's usual time for a bowel movement.

  • Provide privacy and quiet time when the patient needs to have a bowel movement.

  • Help the patient to the toilet or provide a bedside commode instead of a bedpan.

  • Take only medications prescribed by the doctor.

  • Do not use suppositories or enemas unless ordered by the doctor. In some cancer patients, these treatments may lead to bleeding, infection, or other harmful side effects.


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