Nobody likes the unpleasantness of constipation. When you’re constipated you want to relieve your discomfort as quickly and safely as possible.
The medical definition of constipation means having fewer than three bowel movements per week and/or hard, dry, lumpy stools that are difficult to pass. It’s important to remember, however, that everyone has a different ‘normal’ for their bowel routine, so anytime your bowel regularity becomes less frequent than usual, constipation may be the reason.
If you suspect you are constipated, it’s always advisable to consult with a physician to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.
Over-the-Counter & Natural Stool Softeners & Laxatives
Symptoms of Constipation
Constipation is the result of stool spending too much time in the colon, causing water from the stool to be absorbed into the colon leaving it hard, dry, and difficult to pass. While symptoms of constipation can vary, there are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of, including:
- Straining to pass stool
- Painful bowel movements
- Cramping and/or bloating in the lower abdomen
- 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
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
Ways to Prevent Constipation
One of the most important aspects of relieving and preventing constipation is to have a regular bowel routine. Passing stool on a regular basis ‘trains’ your mind and your body to defecate at predictable intervals. 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 important not to withhold stool when you have an urge to go, as the longer a stool is held in the rectum the more it loses moisture, making it drier, harder and more difficult to pass.
Straining while passing stool may be tempting but it’s not healthy and can cause other medical conditions, such as hemorrhoids. It’s important to relax and take time to sit on the toilet and allow your body to pass stool organically. Even if you don’t pass stool, try to go to the bathroom at the same time each day. First thing in the morning, before bedtime, and approximately 30 minutes after a meal are good times to try.
Hydration & High Fiber Diet to Naturally Support Digestive Health
How Does Diet Help Avoid Being Constipated?
Typically, the first course of action when constipated is to evaluate diet and lifestyle changes that may help relieve and prevent constipation.
A nutritious, balanced diet is essential for healthy stools and a regular bowel routine. Consuming an adequate amount of daily fiber is key, as is drinking plenty of non-diuretic fluids.
Fiber: Daily recommended fiber intake is between 25 - 35 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.
Hydration: You may not think of it this way, but the fluids you drink are a vital part of your diet as well. Hydration helps moisten and lubricate stool and keeps it moving through the gastrointestinal tract. Water also works in conjunction with fiber to bulk up stool and encourage it to move through the bowel.
Consuming a balanced, nutritious diet and staying hydrated are key elements of preventing constipation.
What Foods Should I Eat & Not Eat for Constipation?
There are certain foods to incorporate into your diet if you’re experiencing constipation, and other foods you will want to avoid.
Foods to Avoid: Foods that are higher in fat, salt, and sugar like fast food and processed foods exacerbate constipation and should be moderated or eliminated if you are constipated. Avoiding or moderating fluids like caffeine and alcohol can also help relieve constipation, as they are diuretics that deplete the body of needed hydration.
Foods to Eat: Making some simple food substitutions can help, such as using extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter, high-fiber cereals instead of sugary cereals, sliced fruits and vegetables instead of salty or sugary snacks, and whole wheat flour, pastas and breads instead of white flour are helpful.
Interestingly, thirst is not always the best indicator of dehydration. Other factors like gender, medication(s), climate conditions, and overall wellness contribute to how much hydration your body needs as well.
Four Treatments that Help with Constipation
If diet and lifestyle changes don’t relieve your constipation, your doctor will likely recommend an over-the-counter or prescription laxative medication. Laxatives come in several forms, and each one works differently and has different side effects.
Laxatives relieve constipation by loosening stools and/or inducing a bowel movement and are available in pill, capsule, liquid, suppository, and enema form.
Stool softeners are often the first course of action as they are effective and have fewer (or no) side effects. Stool softeners that contain docusate sodium or docusate calcium, work by drawing water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, replicating a standard bowel stimulus and softening the stool.
Softer stool allows for a more comfortable bowel movement that should not require straining.
Osmotic laxatives typically include the ingredient 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.
Lubricant laxatives usually contain mineral oil that coats stool, making it slippery and more comfortable to pass. Lubricant laxatives can inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins and can cause rectal leaking and skin irritation.
Stimulant laxatives typically contain bisacodyl or sennoside and work by stimulating the rectal muscles, activating them to push the stool out. While stimulant laxatives can be effective in certain situations, they can also have unpleasant side effects like bloating, stomach pain, and skin irritation.
The DocuSol® and DocuSol® Plus Advantage
DocuSol® mini-enema delivers 283mg of docusate sodium and is a stool softener hyperosmotic laxative that draws water into the bowel from surrounding body tissues, softening the stool and promoting a bowel movement.
For people with painful bowel movements, DocuSol® Plus also contains 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 2021 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.