Constipation after surgery is a common side effect experienced by patients. Though bothersome, it’s often not a serious problem and can be resolved naturally.
Therefore, constipation remedies after surgery are required, but unfortunately many patients aren’t informed or prepared for this side effect.
Why do patients sometimes experience difficulty with bowel movements after surgery? There are a number of factors, but the two most common ones are painkillers and general anesthesia, and this can be made worse if you are required to take pain medication before and/or after surgery.
Other reasons include possible prolonged periods of inactivity during recovery and changes in diet. When should you worry about constipation after surgery? If any of these four constipation-related complications arise, you need to see your doctor: anal fissures, hemorrhoids, fecal impaction, and rectal prolapse.
What Causes Constipation after Surgery?
Patients experience constipation after surgery for a number of reasons.
The number-one reason for constipation after surgery is the effects of pain medication given before, during, and after surgery. Constipation will be worse if you need to take pain medication for a long time after the surgery, so pay attention to how often you need to have bowel movements. This can be tricky, but it’s important; fecal impaction can be a serious complication arising from constipation. It can be dangerous and even deadly.
Anesthesia is the medication given to patients to relax their muscles and put them asleep for surgery, but a side effect of this is that your intestinal tract counts as one of those relaxed muscles, so it can be difficult to have bowel movements after surgery. But since you need the anesthetic, there’s no real way to avoid this.
A lack of physical activity will also slow down your digestive system and prevent proper bowel movements from happening. You aren’t likely to be moving around too much while recovering after surgery (though this depends on the type of surgery you had), but as soon as you get clearance from your doctor even just to start walking a little, do it without delay. Your internal systems will need it to start working properly again. Exercise really does help get things moving!
Constipation after knee surgery will be more prolonged because recovery from knee surgery can take several months, so you’ll need to find ways to naturally relieve any potential blockage.
Dietary Restrictions and Limitations
Constipation after a hysterectomy and constipation after gallbladder surgery will limit what you can eat after surgery; sometimes it limits what you can even before surgery, too. Liquid diets are often dictated for some surgeries, and since a liquid diet isn’t high in fiber, this can result in constipation. You can try taking a liquid fiber supplement to help move things along.
Treatments for Constipation after Surgery
How long is too long to have constipation after surgery? The state of being constipated is not a healthy one, and ideally bowel movements should happen once a day, but there is some variation on this. If you have constipation after surgery, it’s important to deal with it and there are treatments available to ensure your body keeps operating as it did before the surgery. Note that if you don’t have a bowel movement within five days, you need to speak to your doctor right away.
As soon as you get clearance to start being active, get into an exercise regime, even if all that means is a walk every day. You need to do something to get your system moving again.
Even if you aren’t constipated, it’s important to stay hydrated. But stick to water and juice, and avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages because these are diuretics and will you’re your constipation worse.
Eat More Fiber
Once you are permitted to eat normally again, add more extra fiber to your diet. Have a psyllium drink once a day, and eat prunes, cabbage, and other fiber-rich foods to help stimulate your bowels.
Eat Smaller Meals
Our digestive systems perform better when we eat smaller meals throughout the day as opposed to three large meals a day.
How to Prevent Constipation after Surgery?
Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. Below are some ways to prevent constipation after surgery, including constipation after appendix surgery.
- Eat fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
- Take a fiber supplement.
- Drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and soda.
- After surgery, return to your normal activities once you get the go-ahead from your doctor.
- Get up and walk around as soon as you can. Try to push yourself further every day.
- Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need to do so. Holding it in is not good.
- Have a hot drink—it might encourage a bowel movement.
Relief from constipation after surgery is possible with the tips above. Be active, eat fiber, drink lots of water, and take a psyllium drink once a day to help get your system back on bowel track.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Managing Constipation after Surgery,” Healthline web site;
http://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/constipation-after-surgery, last accessed April 14, 2016.
“Why Does Constipation Strike after Surgery?” About Health web site;
http://surgery.about.com/od/aftersurgery/ss/ConstipationSur.htm#step3, last accessed April 14, 2016.
“Preventing Constipation after Surgery?” Baylor, Scott & White Health web site;
http://www.sw.org/HealthLibrary?page=Preventing%20Constipation%20After%20Surgery, last accessed April 14, 2016