Constipation is a far more troublesome health complaint than most people realize. Constipation isn’t just about having a colon that’s “backed-up”—it can lead to other more serious symptoms, such as restricting blood flow to the heart and brain.
And in seniors, straining too much during a bowel movement can put them at risk of fainting. It’s not uncommon to hear of a senior who has injured themselves or fallen in the effort to have a bowel movement.
Then, there is the problem of fecal impaction, which can happen in cases of chronic constipation. Fecal impaction can make a person feel quite sick, causing pain, loss of appetite, and nausea.
In order to find out what the best treatments for constipation are, researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada conducted a review of common constipation remedies. They analyzed the effectiveness and safety of treatments for constipation in seniors and found that four treatments seemed to be particularly helpful. In no particular order, here they are:
• Osmotic agents, such as polyethylene glycol and lactulose, were found to be effective in increasing the secretion of water in the colon. An osmotic, water-binding laxative works by drawing in water from around the surrounding area inside the colon or intestines. This helps to counteract the dehydrating effect of the colon and improve stool consistency. On the downside, these agents can sometimes cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
• Soluble fibers, such as psyllium, make effective constipation remedies. These so-called “bulk laxatives” expand in the gut after absorbing some water. They help to bulk up stools so that they can be more easily pushed out of the body.
• Eat a diet high in fiber. That means lots of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain a lot of natural water content, which is exactly what you need when you are constipated.
• Keep hydrated, and get some exercise. When you drink enough throughout the day, you’re helping to keep an adequate amount of water in your body and to stave off constipation. Exercise tends to stimulate muscles and circulation, both of which can be beneficial if you’re having trouble with your bowel movements.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Four Top Constipation Remedies Gandell, D., “Treatment of constipation in older people,” CMAJ January 28, 2013.