The treatment for constipation depends on the cause, the time and the severity of the symptoms.
In many cases, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms by making changes in diet and lifestyle. The various treatments for constipation are described below.
Changes in diet and lifestyle are often recommended as the first treatment for constipation. In many cases, this will improve the condition without the need for medication. Some self-help methods to treat constipation are listed below:
- Increase your daily fiber intake. You should eat at least 18 to 30g of fiber a day. Foods rich in fiber include lots of fruits and vegetables and fresh cereals.
- Add some bulking agents, such as wheat bran, to your diet. This will help make your stools softer and easier to pass.
- Avoid dehydration by drinking a lot of water.
- Exercise more regularly – for example, walking daily.
- If constipation is the cause of pain or discomfort, you may want to take an analgesic, such as paracetamol.
- Always follow the dosage instructions carefully. Children under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.
- Keep a routine (a place and time of day) to perform your daily evacuations. Respond to the natural pattern of your intestine.
- Rest your feet on a low stool, while in the bathroom, so that your knees are above the hips; This can make stools go easier.
Laxatives are a type of medication that helps to pass stool easily. There are several different types of laxatives and each one has a different effect on the digestive system.
Volume laxatives: These act by helping the stool retain fluid. This means that they are less likely to dry out, preventing fecal impaction. Volume laxatives also make your stools soft, which means they should be easier to pass.
The commonly prescribed volume laxatives include ispágula husk, methylcellulose and Sterculia. When taking this type of laxative, it is necessary to drink plenty of fluids, and not take them before going to bed. It will usually take two to three days for you to feel the effects of this type of laxative.
Osmotic laxatives: Osmotic laxatives increase the amount of fluid in the intestines. This softens the stool and stimulates your body to evacuate them. The commonly prescribed osmotic laxatives include lactulose and macrogol. As with volume laxatives, it is necessary to drink enough fluid. It will usually take two to three days for you to feel the effect of the laxative.
Stimulant laxatives: This type of laxative stimulates the muscles lining the digestive tract, helping to move stool and waste products along the large intestine to the anus. The most prescribed stimulant laxatives are: senna, bisacodyl and sodium picosulfate. These laxatives are usually only used in the short term, and they start working within 6 to 12 hours.
Fecal Impaction Treatment
Fecal impaction occurs when the stool becomes hard and dry and accumulates in the rectum. This obstructs the rectum, making it more difficult for stool to pass through the intestine.
Sometimes, as a result of retention, a diarrheal overflow can occur (where loose stool leaks around the obstruction). If you have fecal impaction, you will initially be treated with a high dose of the macrogol or an osmotic laxative. After a few days of using macrogol, you may have to start taking a stimulant laxative.
However, if the use of laxatives should fail, some of the medications described below may apply:
Suppository – this type of medicine is inserted into the anus. The suppository gradually dissolves at body temperature and is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Bisacodyl is an example of a medication that can be administered in the form of a suppository.
Mini Enema – a medication is injected in a fluid form through the anus and into your large intestine. Docusate and sodium citrate can be given in this way.
There are many treatments for constipation, however it is not advisable to self-medicate, before using any medication, it is necessary the opinion of a medical specialist, who when performing all the relevant examinations, can decide the right medication to treat constipation.