Dealing with Constipation: Fast Constipation Relief
Whether you cope with the discomfort of constipation occasionally or more frequently, you want relief as quickly and safely as possible. The medical diagnosis of constipation means having fewer than three bowel movements per week and/or dry, hard, lumpy, and difficult to pass stools.
If you’re suffering from constipation, know that you are not alone. Constipation affects nearly 42 million Americans; that’s about 15% of the population!
Constipation: Causes, Consequences & Symptoms
Common Symptoms of Constipation
Constipation can have potentially serious health consequences and should never be ignored. Symptoms of constipation vary from person to person, so it’s always important to talk to a physician for an accurate medical diagnosis.
Common symptoms of constipation include:
- Pain and bloating in the lower abdomen
- Slight straining to pass stool
- Less frequent bowel movements than what is ‘normal’ for you
- Hard, dry, lumpy, or ‘pellet-like’ stool
- Feeling as though the bowel was not completely emptied after a movement
What Causes Constipation in Adults?
Constipation occurs when stool spends too much time in the colon, allowing water from the stool to be absorbed into the colon leaving it hard, dry, and difficult to pass. There are many reasons adults can become constipated, and some more common causes are outlined below.
Some medications and supplements note that constipation may be a side effect. This includes common over-the-counter medications like diuretics, antacids, antihistamines, iron supplements, naproxen, and ibuprofen.
Certain prescription medications can also increase the risk of constipation, including anti-nauseants, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antispasmodics, anticholinergics, and narcotic pain medication.
Interestingly, overuse of laxatives can increase the risk of constipation, as the bowel can become reliant upon them to pass stool.
Injury and Health Conditions
Common health conditions that can cause constipation include hormonal changes, pregnancy, surgery, and any condition that affects metabolism.
Other less common health conditions that increase the risk of becoming constipated include spinal cord injury, diabetes, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and Parkinson’s.
While healthy habits are important for relieving and preventing constipation, sometimes changes in diet and wellness can actually cause constipation, including:
- Reduced Physical Activity: Lack of exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, or a reduction in physical activity can increase the risk of becoming constipated. For people with an illness or injury that affects their mobility, the risk of constipation increases.
- Dehydration: Lack of adequate hydration slows stool movement through the intestine which can cause or worsen constipation.
- Lack of Fiber: Fiber retains water in the intestine, making stools easier to pass. With inadequate fiber intake, stool becomes dry and harder to pass.
- Change in Routine: When stool is not passed on a regular basis, or the urge to ‘go’ is ignored, stool builds up in the bowel, leading to constipation. If there is a break in normal routine, such as travel, that prohibits regular bowel movements, constipation can result.
Medication & Lifestyle Changes to Relive Constipation
Ways to Relieve Adult Constipation
Before trying any over-the-counter or prescribed medication for constipation, it’s a good idea to try natural remedies and ensure daily habits are as healthy and regular as possible.
There are remedies you can try at home before (or in addition to) appropriate medication that can also help prevent future bouts of constipation.
It’s important to establish a fitness routine that keeps your mind, body, and bowels healthy! Even 20 minutes of movement a day can make a big difference. If you have a regular exercise routine and are still dealing with constipation, try increasing the amount of time you exercise and/or changing up your exercise routine.
It’s important to get your heartrate up to increase blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, so aerobic activities are best for relieving constipation. Blood flow promotes intestinal contractions that are needed for healthy, regular bowel movements. Some examples of aerobic exercise includes:
- Cardio machines
- Aerobics classes
- Cross country skiing
Exercising after a meal can allow for faster digestion and regular bowel movements. It’s important to wait at least 30 minutes after you finish eating, however, to avoid diverting blood flow from the digestive tract to the heart and lungs.
If walking or more strenuous exercise isn’t possible due to illness or injury, range of motion exercises, stretching, or light yoga can help keep your blood flowing and your bowel moving.
Dehydration is one of the most common contributors to constipation. Drinking enough water helps the body pass waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. Adequate hydration also softens stool and allows it to pass more quickly and easily through the digestive tract.
Lack of hydration slows the movement of stool through the bowel and causes it to become hard, dry, and difficult to pass. If you are constipated, increase the amount of water you drink per day.
It’s important to note that thirst is not always the best indicator of dehydration. There are other factors like gender, current medication(s), climate conditions, and overall health that contribute to how much hydration your body needs as well.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that the minimum daily water intake should be:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
Adequate daily fiber intake is essential to maintain healthy bowel movements. Fiber holds water in the intestine, making it easier for stool to pass. Dietary fiber isn’t absorbed into the body (unlike fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), resulting in increased size and weight of stool. This ‘bulking’ up of stool makes it easier to have regular bowel movements, even though it may seem counterintuitive that bulkier stools actually help keep stool moving.
Getting enough fiber in your diet can be challenging, especially if you’re not a big fan of legumes, grains, and nuts. Making simple food substitutions can help, including the following:
- White flours, breads, pastas, rice
- Processed snacks high in sugar, fat, sodium
- Sugary cereals
- Whole wheat flour, bread, pasta and rice
- Sliced fruits and veggies
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- High fiber cereals and/or bran muffins
Also try adding in spinach and kale and other high fiber vegetables to fruit smoothies, egg-white omelets/scrambles or as toppings on a whole-wheat pizza.
Daily Fiber Recommendations
Daily recommended fiber intake is between 25 – 25 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults, but factors like gender, age, and weight contribute to the amount of daily fiber you need so check with a physician to determine the amount that is right for you.
Having a regular bowel routine ‘trains’ your mind and your body, to pass stool on a regular basis. It’s important to establish a regular daily time to ‘go’; first thing in the morning, and/or 20 – 40 minutes after a meal, are most common.
It’s vital not to withhold stool when you have an urge to go, as the longer a stool is held in the rectum the more water is absorbed from it, making the stool harder and more difficult to pass.
It’s also important not to strain, so relax and take a minute to sit on the toilet and allow your body to pass stool organically. Keeping a record of the time and consistency of your bowel movements, along with daily water, exercise, daily fiber intake, helps you track what works well for you and what doesn’t.
“When you are constipated, finding relief is the first thing on your mind. Laxatives can help evacuate the bowel and clear constipation. There are a lot of different products available and understanding which one is right for you can be confusing and overwhelming.”
- AMY POWERS, DOCUSOL®
What Types of Laxatives are Available?
Laxatives relieve constipation by loosening stools and/or inducing a bowel movement and are available in pill, capsule, liquid, suppository, and enema form.
There are several different categories of laxatives, and it can be confusing to know which is right for you. Always consult with a physician before taking any laxative medication.
Most oral laxatives take longer than rectal dose forms to produce results. Because different things cause constipation, different laxatives work in different ways to provide relief. Some may be a better choice for you than others, depending on how long you need to use them and how harsh the ingredients can be on your body.
Here we break down what you need to know about the different types of laxatives.
- Stool Softeners: may contain the ingredients docusate sodium or docusate calcium, and work by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, replicating a standard bowel stimulus and softening the stool. Because stool softeners increase the amount of moisture in the stool, they allow for a more comfortable bowel movement that should not require straining. Stool softeners are considered mild with few side effects.
- Osmotic Laxatives: may contain polyethylene glycol or glycerin, and work by increasing the amount of water in the intestines to allow easier passage of stool. They are generally considered mild with few side effects.
- Stimulant Laxatives: may contain bisacodyl or sennosides. These work by stimulating the rectal muscles, activating them to push stool out. Stimulant laxatives can have unpleasant side effects like bloating, stomach pain, and skin irritation.
- Lubricant Laxatives: may contain mineral oil, and work by coating stool in a lubricant, making it slippery and more comfortable to pass. Lubricants can cause respiratory difficulties if accidentally inhaled, and because they are not digestible they can cause rectal leaking and skin irritation.
What to Do if Constipation Keeps Occurring
Symptoms that may indicate constipation is more serious include:
- Lower back pain
- Anal bleeding and fissures
- Extreme straining to pass stool
- Losing weight without trying
- Inability to pass gas
- Blood in the stool
- Perforation of the bowel
- Diverticular disease
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or a combination of symptoms, it is highly recommended that you reach out to your physician immediately to schedule an in-person consultation to discuss your constipation, identify any additional conditions, and determine a treatment plan.
Your physician may recommend a stool softener laxative to help relieve your constipation. While stool softeners for adults are a laxative, not all laxatives are stool softeners.
Stool softeners are considered gentle medications with a relatively mild effect. They soften the stool, making it easier to pass, often without straining. Following the lifestyle changes we outline above, stool softeners are often the next method used for addressing short-term constipation.
The DocuSol® and DocuSol® Plus Advantage
The DocuSol® mini-enema delivers 283mg of docusate sodium and functions as a stool-softening, hyperosmotic laxative by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, softening the stool and promoting a bowel movement.
DocuSol® and DocuSol® Plus are popular choices due to the fast, predictable results (typically in 2-15 minutes), non-irritating formula, and flexible tip for ease of use.
DocuSol® Plus has the same active ingredients but contains an additional 20mg of benzocaine, assisting in the anesthetization of the rectum and lower bowel. The formulation was developed for patients who experience hemorrhoids, fissures, or painful bowel movements.
Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Alliance Labs, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2020 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.