Relieving constipation quickly and safely is important to maintaining good digestive health and easing patient discomfort. The best way to relieve constipation will depend on the underlying cause of the condition, since it may be the result of many different factors. Consider visiting a doctor if constipation is severe, lasts several days, or is accompanied by abdominal pain or bleeding. A doctor may recommend the best method for relieving constipation after a diagnosis is complete.
Over-the-counter laxatives are sometimes useful for acute constipation. These products generally work by stimulating the colon and softening stool to make bowel movements easier. Doctors frequently warn that overuse of laxatives can actually lead to desensitization, which may result in increased episodes of constipation. For constipation that occurs very rarely, however, natural or over-the-counter laxatives can provide fast relief.
If constipation is caused by dietary issues, some simple changes can lead to relief. Consider boosting fiber in the diet by eating high-fiber bread or cereal and beans. Fiber can also be added through supplements, such as psyllium husk. Certain fruits, such as bananas, prunes, and dates, can also help add bulk to stools and relieve constipation. In some cases, inadequate hydration may be a culprit, so be sure to drink lots of water every day.
In some cases, constipation may be caused by daily medications. Narcotic pain medications, some antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and calcium blockers can all be responsible for serious bouts of constipation. While these side effects may be treatable by adding more fiber and better hydration to a daily diet, in some cases the symptoms simply become too severe for natural management. Doctors may be able to reduce dosage or switch medication regimes if constipation cannot be relieved by easier methods.
Constipation can sometimes be caused by inadequate muscle tone in the pelvis and abdomen. In order to relieve constipation from this source, patients may need to find an exercise regime that stresses toning in the core of the body. Pilates, yoga, ballet, and weight training can all be excellent choices for core exercise. Even a simple 30-minute walk once a day can sometimes help relieve constipation due to muscular loss.
Some patients with chronic constipation accompanied by abdominal pain or bleeding may be suffering from an inflammatory bowel condition, such as colitis or irritable bowel syndrome. In these cases, dietary measures and exercise may simply not be enough to relieve constipation, though they may help reduce the frequency and intensity of flares. Doctors often prescribe antispasmodic drugs to help relieve the abdominal cramping that can occur with these conditions, as well as recommending a specific diet to help relieve constipation. If the condition is caused by a structural disorder in the bowels, surgery may sometimes be required to rectify constipation and prevent intestinal blocks.