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Constipation in Adults (cont.)

What is the treatment for constipation in adults?

If the patient's bowel is not blocked, realistic goals of medical treatment must be established between the patient and health-care professional.

  • All cases will require dietary advice. Treatment may be difficult, particularly in those with chronic constipation.
  • The doctor may prescribe bulk-forming agents in addition to dietary changes.
  • Increased activity in the elderly and regular exercise in younger people will help.

What home and natural remedies or diet changes can help with constipation?

  • Fiber: Get more fiber or bulk in the diet. If this cannot be done adequately by diet changes, consider adding a fiber supplement to the diet. There are many of these available, including psyllium (Metamucil) and methylcellulose (Citrucel). In general, these fiber supplements are safe and effective if taken together with sufficient water. They are not laxatives and must be taken regularly (whether you are constipated or not) in order for them to help you avoid future constipation. They are generally taken suspended in a glass of water one to three times daily. Start with once a day dose, and increase to twice daily after a week, and then to three times daily after another week if necessary.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity is an important component in bowel health. Try a daily exercise such as the knee-to-chest position. Such positions may activate bowel movements. Spend about 10-15 minutes in this position. Breathe in and out deeply.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and fruit juices. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily in addition to beverages with meals.
  • Alcohol and Caffeine: Decrease alcohol intake and caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, or cola drinks. In general, it is a good idea to have an extra glass of water (over and above the 6 to 8 daily mentioned previously) for every cup of coffee, tea, or alcoholic drink.
  • Bowel Hygiene: Go to the toilet at the same time every day, preferably after meals, and allow enough time as not to strain while having a bowel movement.
  • Laxatives: Avoid using over-the-counter laxatives. Try to avoid laxatives containing senna (Senokot) or buckthorn (Rhamnus purshiana) because long-term intake may damage the lining of the bowel and injure nerve endings in the colon.

Aloe juice and aloe latex have been used as laxatives, but should not be confused with aloe Vera gel used for wound healing or sunburn. The FDA has indicated that aloe is not safe as a stimulant laxative. Rhubarb or any tonics containing it are also not proven to be safe as laxatives.

NOTE: If you choose to use remedies involving homeopathy, herbs, dietary and nutritional supplements, acupressure, aromatherapy, and other alternative or complementary healing methods; keep your doctor informed about every medication or medicine-like substance you use and seek medical advice before taking any medication or remedy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015

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