Relief for Constipation: Are Laxatives Your Only Choice?

Numerous things can provide relief for constipation. Details about the definition of and causes of constipation are found on this page. Some constipation treatments are more natural than others, but most people turn to constipation medications at the first sign of discomfort. However, diet and lifestyle changes should be your first choice when dealing with problems in the digestive system, including problems with regularity.

Diet and lifestyle changes that are usually recommended for the relief of constipation include:

  • A high-fiber diet (The US FDA, European Food Safety Authority and other governments recommend a daily fiber intake of at least 25 grams/day, but most Americans only get 5-14 grams)
  • Regular exercise (Movement keeps the body working properly.)
  • Staying hydrated (Adequate water intake helps to keep the stools from drying out.)
  • Allowing time for bathroom breaks and going when needed so that the bowel functions as it is supposed to work. (Denying the urge to use the bathroom can confuse bodily functions and result in chronic constipation.)
  • Not sitting for long periods on the toilet. The modern toilet is not designed for easy elimination, believe it or not. Having your body in more of a squatting position allows the colon to be unrestricted so it can eliminate easier. A brilliant solution is to use the Squatty Potty when using the toilet. (I wish I had thought of marketing a product like this!)

I can help you with the dietary and lifestyle modifications to improve your constipation problems through nutrition consultations.

The Squatty Potty reduces the strain of going to the bathroom

The Squatty Potty helps to position the body in the correct position on the toilet for proper elimination without straining. When finished using the bathroom, you simply push it back against the toilet, fitting it like a puzzle piece that stays out of the way.

The Squatty Potty comes in 2 heights: 7" and 9", depending on how tall you are. The Squatty Potty website says, "Order the 7" if you are new to squatting. If you are advanced, limber, or have a tall comfort height toilet, get the 9". One reviewer said that if you are over 5'5" tall, get the 7".

If you normally strain at all, or have hemorroids, the Squatty Potty can help you!

What About Constipation Medications Such as Laxatives to Provide Relief for Constipation?

According to the US National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, approximately $725 million is spent on laxative products each year in America! Laxatives should be used only over the short-term, and only when diet and lifestyle changes aren't effective in relieving constipation. Some constipation medications such as laxatives can become habit-forming so that you cannot have a bowel movement without them because your colon stops working properly. Always read the label carefully and follow the instructions for use.

Laxatives are usually categorized according to type:

  • Fiber supplements
  • Lubricants - These help make the stool slippery so it moves through the colon easier. Fleet Mineral oil suppositories are an example.
  • Saline (salt) laxatives - These draw water into the colon. Milk of Magnesia, Fleet saline enemas and homemade saline enemas are examples.
  • Hyperosmotics - These attract water into the colon to soften stool. Fleet liquid glycerin suppositories, (and for children 2-5 years old, Fleet Pedia-Lax liquid glycerin suppositories), and Miralax (polyethylene glycol)are examples.
  • Stool softeners - These help the stool absorb water to soften it. Colace (docusate sodium), Dulcolax Liquid Gels (docusate soduim), and Perrigo (docusate sodium) are examples.
  • Stimulants and Irritants- These drugs cause rhythmic contractions in the intestines, mimicking your body's own peristalis or irritate the cells lining the colon to produce bowel movements. Ex-lax (irritant: sennosides), Ex-lax Maximum Strength (sennosides), Ex-lax Ultra (bisacodyl), Senokot (irritant: sennosides), Correctol (generic bisacodyl), and Dulcolax Tablets (bisacodyl) are examples. They are the most powerful of the laxatives and should be used, in my opinion, as a last resort. Warnings in the product details advise you not to use them for more than 1 week.
  • Prescription medications

Alternative therapies such as homeopathic remedies, yoga, massage, regular exercise and acupuncture may help with constipation.

Can You Get Relief for Constipation From Probiotics?

Find out if probiotics can provide relief for constipation on this page.

Return to causes of constipation.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is educational in nature and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure for any physical or mental disease, nor is it intended as a substitute for regular medical care. Consult with your doctor regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.

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