Once your specialist has diagnosed chronic constipation and the causes of your condition, they will usually start treatment by recommending changes to your diet and lifestyle changes. If those changes don’t help, they may recommend the use of medicines or surgery.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle may include:
- Increasing the fibre in your diet (eat more fresh fruits and vegetables,-whole grain breads and cereals each day)
- Exercising most days of the week
- Don’t ignore the urge to poo
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding alcohol
- Keeping to a regular toilet routine, time and place
- Resting your feet on a low stool while going to the toilet
- Reducing stress: try mindfulness meditation
- Trying abdominal massage to move poo through the bowels
Laxatives & Supplements
If diet and lifestyle do not relieve your condition, your GI specialist may prescribe one of the medicines below, or a combination of these treatments:
- Bulking agents: (fibre supplements) These help to soak up the water in the colon making stools softer and heavier, helping them to pass through the bowel more easily.
- Osmotic laxatives: These medicines work by increasing the amount of fluid in the colon. Osmotic laxatives include lactulose, macrogols, sodium citrate enema and phosphate enema.
- Stimulants: These stimulate the nerves in your bowel to move your stools out more quickly. Stimulant laxatives include senna and glycerol or bisacodyl.
- Faecal softener laxatives: (stool softeners) They work by softening poo to make it easier to pass through the bowel. Docusate is the main type of faecal softener.
- Lubricant laxatives: These coats the surface of the stool (poo) and intestinal lining to keep in moisture, making the stools softer and easier to pass through the colon. These laxatives include liquid paraffin and arachis oil.
If your severe constipation is caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or chronic idiopathic constipation (where the cause is unknown), your specialist may prescribe various prescription medicines.
It is important that you speak to your specialist doctor before you start taking any over-the-counter medicines or laxatives. They should be taken carefully and only for short periods of time.
If oral laxatives and supplements do not work, your specialist may suggest treatments, such as a suppository or a mini enema to move stools (poo) through the bottom (rectum).
Biofeedback training exercises are non-surgical, non-invasive therapy options that have been shown to reduce symptoms and causes of some bowel problems, such as constipation, incontinence, dyssynergic defecation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Biofeedback training involves working with a specialist doctor, nurse or physiotherapist. They can use various devices to help you learn to relax and tighten the muscles in your pelvis to help you pass your stools (poo) more easily. Speak to your specialist to see what they recommend.