Self-care Tips for Dealing with Constipation
“The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) have estimated that over 4 million people in the United States have frequent constipation, corresponding to a prevalence of about 2 percent.Constipation was the most common digestive complaint in the United States, outnumbering all other chronic digestive conditions.”
Seriously?? It seems like “pooping” is a regular, everyday thing (see what I did there…pun intended). But honestly, for a lot of people it takes a little extra effort. I personally prefer to blame our low-fiber, high fat, empty carb diet here in the US! So if you are looking for over-the-counter remedies for this simple yet common problem, you’ve come to the right spot! Here are 7 ways you can handle things using over-the-counter medications (and how each of them work)!
(Disclaimer: this is not to be a replacement for the advice of your medical provider. If you have a complicated history, are currently under care, or have serious medical conditions, please consult your provider before trying any of these suggestions. I recommend talking about a specific regimen that is customized to your own personal health with your provider. This is purely informational so that you are familiar with the terminology and OTC options available.)
I love, love, LOVE the health benefits of drinking water! It seems to be such a simple thing, however it takes planning and a conscious effort to drink the recommended daily amount of water. The current recommendations are to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water….so if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 ounces of water. That is 4/5th of a GALLON of water! One trick that I use is to take a gallon of water and mark how much I am supposed to drink, then I pour it into a glass and chug it every 2-3 hours.
Metamucil (Psyllium Husk Fiber)
I love sugar-free Metamucil powder. I buy the generic version and use 1-2 scoops mid-morning (with my first glass of water). This is a bulk-forming fiber supplement consisting of psyllium husk and helps to move everything along. I do not take it the same time that I take vitamins or medications because I don’t want it to interfere with absorption.
This is a type of Osmotic laxitive…basically it causes a bowel movement to occur by attracting water through the tissues by a process known as osmosis. Once in the intestine, it can attract enough water into the intestine to naturally stimulates bowel motility, ending in a bowel movement. Magnesium citrate functions best on an empty stomach.
This is one example in the category “stool softeners” which does exactly what it claims to do: Softens! This specific type is considered a “Surfactant laxative” which enhances incorporation of water and fat into stool, causing stool to soften. Even if you don’t have a bowel movement daily, this is helpful because it prevents the stool from getting hardened and “stuck.” The longer it sits in the colon, the more water can be absorbed out of the stool, creating those hard “pellets”. This helps stool to move more easily and decreases the amount of straining required to expel…thus also decreasing the risk of hemorrhoids!
Senna (Senna Glycoside)
This is a good medication to use on an occasional basis, however you don’t want to use it daily. Senna is thought to act by increasing fluid secretion within the large intestine ending in contraction and bowel movement. The issue I have with this medication is that it can cause abdominal cramping and mild bloating. But it is effective when needed on occasion.
Miralax (Polyethelyne Glycol)
This is another example of an Osmotic laxative agent, however it produces results typically in 30-60 minutes (depending on the severity of the constipation). This is a very safe medication and is often used as bowel preparation prior to colonoscopy. It causes water to be retained in the stool and often produces a liquid-type stool.
Increased Fiber Intake
Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet will definitely help colon health. You can find a list of fiber-dense foods in the link below…who knows, you may find some new favorites to add into your meal routines! Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day.
*I did not include discussion regarding enemas in this post. That is an option, however there are many different types and I would recommend discussion with your health care provider prior to doing this for the first time.