The treatment for constipation depends on the exact cause, how the condition lasts and the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, it is possible to relieve the symptoms with lifestyle and dietary modifications.
Modifications to the lifestyle and diet are recommended as the initial treatment for constipation and this has improved the condition for many individuals without the need for medications. These are some of the measures that can help manage the constipation:
- Increase the daily intake of fiber. It is recommended to eat at least 18-30 g of fiber in a day such as vegetables, fruits and cereals.
- Maintain proper hydration of the body by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Add bulking agents to the diet such as wheat bran to make the stools softer and easier to pass.
- Encourage the individual to exercise regularly such as daily running or walking.
- Create a routine where the individual can comfortable spend time on the toilet. Always respond to the natural pattern of the bowels. If there is an urge, do not delay.
- If constipation is the cause of discomfort or pain, a pain medication such as paracetamol can be given. Just make sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully.
- Rest the feet on a low stool while using the toilet so that the knees are positioned above the hips to allow easier passage of stools.
- In case there are medications that might be responsible for causing constipation, a doctor must be consulted so that an alternative can be given.
In case these lifestyle changes could not help the condition, the doctor might prescribe an oral laxative.
What are laxatives?
Laxatives work by promoting easier passage of stools. There are various types that have a different effect on the digestive system.
The doctor will normally start with the bulk-forming type. With this type of laxative, it works by helping the stools retain fluids. It simply means that they are less unlikely to dry out which that can result to fecal impaction.
The bulk-forming laxatives are also capable of making the stools laxer which makes them easier to pass out. When this type of laxative is used, the individual must drink plenty of fluids. They should not be taken before going to bed. Take note that it usually takes 2-3 days before the individual can feel the effects of the laxative.
In case the stools are hard after using the bulk-forming laxatives, the doctor might prescribe an osmotic laxative. These laxatives work by increasing the amount of fluid in the bowels to stimulate the body to pass out stools as well as also softening them.
Just like with the bulk-forming laxatives, it is vital to drink enough fluids. It usually takes 2-3 days before the effect is felt by the individual.
If the stools are soft but there is still difficulty in passing them, the doctor will recommend a stimulant laxative. These work by stimulating the muscles lining the digestive tract to promote movement of the stools along the large intestines for elimination.
Stimulant laxatives are only used on a short-term basis and typically take effect within 6-12 hours.