A sensitive topic yet commonly asked about is, yup, you guessed it: constipation!
If you have difficulty or your bowel movements have decreased significantly, you are constipated. “How do you treat constipation?” you ask. There are several causes of this condition and a few drug and non-drug treatments to help alleviate constipation.
Before seeking treatment with drugs, try to investigate why you have constipation. Consider your medical history and frequency of bowel movements. Everyone’s need “to go” is different, so your routine can differ greatly from others. Determine how your bowel movements have changed over time. If your number of bowel movements is less than 3 times per week or you have difficulty “going” due to dry, hard stools, it may be due to a change in your eating habits or you may have been under a lot of stress.
Dehydration can be a cause of constipation. Other causes may be due to a lack of fibre and/or exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well. If you have just started taking a new medication and you experience constipation, ask your pharmacist if the drug has that effect.
Constipation can often be treated and prevented by making lifestyle changes. A healthy diet containing about 20-35 grams of fibre can keep your stool soft and bulky. Drinking more water can also help soften your stool. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks that can cause dehydration. Regular physical activity helps to encourage movement in your bowels. When you feel the urge, just go. The longer you wait, the more water is absorbed from your stool causing it to become more hard and dry.
There are many different kinds of medications available without a prescription for treating constipation. Your pharmacist can help you choose the best treatment option suited for you. Fibre supplements can help promote regularity, but must be taken with plenty of water. Without enough water, the fibre can cause constipation. Gentle laxatives and stool softeners can be used for short-term treatment. Avoid prolonged use of laxatives because these medications can become habit-forming and can worsen your symptoms. Overuse of laxatives can cause your bowels to stop functioning properly.
When to see doctor
If you are experiencing severe abdominal or rectal pain, have blood in your stool or have unexpected weight loss, talk to your doctor. If you have constipation that has not resolved after trying these methods, see your doctor.
When constipated, try to figure out why and try non-drug treatment first. Healthy lifestyle choices along with adequate exercise will help maintain your health and regularity.
The above information is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor, pharmacist or qualified health care professional to receive proper medical treatment.
Armalyn Tesoro is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. She is currently working as a licensed community pharmacist at Wal-Mart on Ellice and Empress.