Constipation

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Question

What treatments are available for constipation?

Answer

There are several steps that you can take in order to treat constipation physically without the use of drugs. Most of them are easy steps involving diet and exercise until the symptoms of constipation end and you return to a normal bowel movement schedule. These constipation treatment steps include:

  • Increase fiber intake to bulk up stool
  • Drink an adequate amount of water daily
  • Use the bathroom when you have the urge
  • Increase mobility - exercise

Most people with mild constipation do not need to use laxatives. But a doctor may recommend laxatives or enemas for a limited time for those who have made lifestyle and diet changes and are still constipated. There are many forms of laxatives available for treatment and prevention of constipation.

Laxative Type

Mechanism of Action

Brand Names (active ingredients)

Bulk Forming

Bulks the stool to stimulate the intestines. Take with a sufficient amount of water.

Metamucil® (psyllium)

Emollient

Increases the amount of water in stool to soften and lubricate it for easy transport through the colon. Take with sufficient amount of water.

Walgreens stool softener (docusate sodium)

Colace capsules®

Stimulant

Contracts the large intestine to allow stool to pass through quickly. Avoid long term use. Caution if you have a bone disorder as it can affect vitamin D and calcium absorption.

Dulcolax® tablets (bisacodyl)

Osmotic

Draws water into the large intestine. For short term use. Avoid use if you have heart failure, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or are on a salt restricted diet.

Miralax® (polyethylene glycol 3350)

Glycerin suppositories

Lactulose

Sorbitol

Saline

Draws water into the large intestine for easier passage. Avoid long term use.

Magnesium citrate

Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide)

Chloride Channel Activator

Increases fluid content in stool and stimulates motility through the colon.

Amitiza® (prescription product)

Your doctor or health professional should determine if a patient needs a laxative and which form is the best option for you.

Read more about constipation in our Health Encyclopedia.

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