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Constipation Treatment

How is Constipation Treated?

Treating constipation in part depends on the patient and how sever the symptoms are. For mild or occasional constipation simple changes in diet and lifestyle may be enough to relieve or even eliminate constipation symptoms, and keep them from recurring.  In more sever cases some type of laxative may be needed. Americans spend millions each year on over the counter laxatives, treating themselves before consulting with a doctor or health care professional. We recommend that suffers play it safe. When in doubt seek professional help. One or more of the following treatments may be recommend for a particular type of constipation.


Adding Dietary Fiber

For sure the best Dietary fiber is just that, fiber that you add or receive in yournormal diet, from fiber rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. The recommendation is to have at a minimum of 5 servings of fruits or vegetables each and every day. It might be that consuming the proper amount of foods rich in fiber is not always practical, in which case it may be necessary to add a fiber supplement to the daily dietary intake

Dietary fiber is material produced by plants that is not digested when consumed and passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Fiber is one of the greatest weapons in the war against constipation Whole grain bread, cereals, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber. Many types of fiber within the intestine bind to water and keep the water within the intestine. The fiber adds bulk (volume) to the stool and the water softens the stool.

The draw back to a high fiber diet for is that it may cause gas and bloating. The gas and bloating may or may not subside with time. The gas occurs because the bacteria normally present within the colon are capable of digesting fiber to a small extent. The bacteria produce gas as a byproduct of their digestion of fiber. All fibers, no matter what their source, can cause intestinal gas. However, since bacteria vary in their ability to digest the various types of fiber, the different sources of fiber may produce different amounts of gas. If intestinal gas is a problem then it is recommended to try changing your sources of fiber; different people react differently to different kinds of fiber. In the beginning of diet modifications it is recommended to increase fiber intake by no more then 2 or 3 grams per day until the desired level is achieved. When increasing dietary fiber it is important to drink six to eight glasses of plain water a day

Because of concern about obstruction, persons who have had previous surgeries of the bowel or intestine, should not use fiber supplements or drastically increase their intake of organic dietary fiber unless it has been discussed with a health care professional. Some fiber laxatives contain sugar, and diabetic patients may need to select sugar-free products


Fiber Laxatives or Fiber Supplements

Because of concern about obstruction, persons who have had previous surgeries of the bowel or intestine, should not use fiber supplements or drastically increase their intake of organic dietary fiber unless it has been discussed with a health care professional. Some fiber laxatives contain sugar, and diabetic patients may need to select sugar-free products.

Bulk-forming laxatives generally are considered the safest, but they can interfere with absorption of some medicines. They absorb water in the intestine and make the stool softer. Some brand names include Metamucil, Fiberall, Citrucel, Konsyl, and Serutan, and due to the increase of constipation resulting from things such as IBS, more and more brands are appearing on the market all time. These supplements should always be taken with plenty of water to avoid the possibility of obstructions. Some people also report no relief after taking bulking agents.


Lubricant laxatives:

Lubricant laxatives contain some type of mineral oil, either in its original form or emulsified with water. The oil stays within the intestine, coating the particles of stool, and in theory maintaining water in the stool. This retention of water in the stool results in softer stool. Mineral oil generally is used only for the short-term treatment of constipation. Long-term use potentially has some disadvantages. The mineral oil can absorb fat soluble vitamins from the intestine, if used for long periods, lubricant laxatives may cause some deficiencies of these vitamins . This is of particular concern for women who are pregnant, where by inadequate vitamin supplies may be detrimental to the developing fetus. Mineral oil may also decrease the absorption of some drugs such as Warfarin and oral contraceptives, decreasing their effectiveness. Keeping in mind the potential disadvantages, mineral oil can be an effective agent when used short term.


Stool Softeners or Emollient laxatives

Stool Softeners usually contain a compound called Docusate. Docusate is a wetting agent that increases the ability of water within the colon to penetrate and mix with stool. This increased water in the stool softens the stool. Stool softeners often are used in the long-term treatment of constipation. It may take a week or more for Docusate to be effective. The dose should be increased after one to two weeks if no effect is seen. Although Docusate is generally considered to be safe, it may allow the absorption of mineral oil and some medications from the intestine. Absorbed mineral oil collects in tissues of the body such as the lymph nodes and the liver, where it has been known to cause inflammation. There is no clear research as to the long term effects of absorbed mineral oil, but it generally is felt that prolonged absorption should not be allowed. The use of emollient laxatives is not recommended together with mineral oil or with certain prescription medications. Emollient laxatives are commonly used when there is a need to soften the stool temporarily and make defecation easier such as in cases where straining to produce a bowel movement could be harmful like after a surgery or heart attach.


Saline laxatives

Brand name and examples of saline laxatives are Phillips Milk Of Magnesia, Miralax, Nulytely, Colyte, Visicol, Kristalose, Golytely, Phospho-Soda, Mag-Ox 400, Colyte, TriLyte, PEG 3350 & Electrolytes, Uro-Mag, Generlac. Saline laxatives contain such elements as magnesium, sulfate, phosphate, and citrate. These elements or compounds of elements are not well absorbed in the GI tract and remain in the colon causing water to be drawn into the colon; the effect is softening of the stool. Magnesium also is thought to have a mild stimulatory effect on the colonic muscles. Saline laxatives act within a few hours. In general, potent saline laxatives should not be used on a regular basis. To some extent the magnesium in magnesium-containing laxatives is partially absorbed from the intestine and into the body. Magnesium is eliminated from the body by the kidneys. Individuals with impaired kidney function may develop toxic levels of magnesium from long term use of magnesium-containing laxatives. Laxatives that contain magnesium have the potential to cause diarrhea, if and when that occurs, large amounts of fluids can be lost from the body, potentially causing dehydration if the fluids are not adequately replaced


Stimulant laxatives

Stimulant laxatives act on the muscles of the small intestine and colon, speeding up the process by which they propel contents out of the body. They also increase the amount of water in the stool, either by reducing the absorption of the water in the colon or by causing active secretion of water in the small intestine. The most commonly-used stimulant laxatives may contain any of the following compounds; cascara, caster oil, Bisacodyl, Sodium bicarbonate and potassium bitartrate or Senna. There are varying strengths of these types of laxatives, regulated by the amount of agent they contain. Some examples of stimulant laxatives are; Ex•Lax Ultra, Dulcolax BowelPrep Kit, Gentlax, Ex•Lax Laxative Pills and Senokot. Stimulant laxatives are very effective, but they can cause severe diarrhea with resulting dehydration and loss of electrolytes (especially potassium). They also are more likely than other types of laxatives to cause intestinal cramping. There is concern that chronic use of stimulant laxatives may damage the colon and worsen constipation.



Enemas have long been used as a treatment for constipation. There are many different types of enemas. Enemas stimulate the colon to contract and eliminate stool. Different types of enemas use different mechanisms of action. For example, saline enema causes water to be drawn into the colon thus distending the bowel, triggering a discharge reaction. Phosphate enemas stimulate the muscles of the colon. Mineral oil enemas lubricate and soften hard stool. Emollient enemas contain agents that soften the stool.

Enemas are particularly useful when there is impaction, which is hardening of stool in the rectum. Enemas are not recommended for long term use, they should be used only when all medical and safety instructions are read and understood. These instructions should be followed without deviation, including fluid amounts, temperatures, and body positioning during the administration. Retention times should also be followed as closely as possible before release. Contraction and expulsion of bowel contents usually follow within minutes. Enemas are meant for occasional rather than regular use. The frequent use of enemas can cause disruptions of the fluids and electrolytes in the body.



Most or all of the above examples of laxatives are available OTC or over the counter with out a prescription.  Because of this is, it is not uncommon for constipation sufferers to over use or abuse these products, adding complications to a normally manageable condition.  It is strongly suggested that no one use any of the above laxatives for more then the recommendations that are always on the packaging.  If constipation persists, it is advisable to seek professional medical assistance.

If constipation is chronic, your doctor or physician may prescribe one of many laxatives or constipation controlling drugs available on the market today, that are by prescription only.  Keep in mind that as with all drugs, there may be side effects to using such medications.  Discuss before hand with your doctor as to what those side effects might be.  Make sure that you disclose any and all medications, either prescription or over the counter that you may be taking to your physician, as they may not be tolerated well with constipation controlling drugs.


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