Constipation is a common health problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. While occasional constipation can be treated with laxatives or stool softeners, chronic problems may require prescription medications or lifestyle changes. Constipation is described as three or less bowel movements in a week, with stool being very dry and hard. Chronic constipation can cause extreme discomfort and pain, but fortunately there are some simple solutions that may provide relief.
Prescription medications, such as a 5-HT4 agonist, reduce constipation by boosting fluid in the intestines. Chloride channel activators, such as Amitiza, relieve symptoms by boosting fluid in stool.
People with chronic constipation should avoid taking over-the-counter laxatives regularly, according to the Mayo Clinic. These medications can be habit-forming and don’t promote a long-term solution.
Therapies like massage may provide benefits to people struggling with constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Massaging the abdominal area helps relax the muscles in the intestines and bladder area, which may promote bowel movements. Acupuncture also may provide relief by using needles in the body to stimulate the colon.
Talk with your doctor about herbal remedies for chronic constipation, such as bryonia. Homeopathic remedies contain natural plant-based laxatives that help relieve painful constipation symptoms.
Sometimes relief is found with simple lifestyle changes. According to the Mayo Clinic, at least 20 grams of fiber should be consumed each day. Foods with high fiber content include whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Avoid processed foods, which are usually low in fiber and nutritional content, and limit your consumption of cheese and meat, which don’t promote bowel movements.
Exercise is another way to stimulate activity in the intestines to promote bowel movements. It’s also important to watch water consumption carefully. Drinking plenty of water helps soften the stool naturally.
When to Call a Doctor
If you have chronic constipation, partner with your doctor to rule out an underlying health issue, such as colon cancer. It’s imperative that you call a doctor if you have thin pencil-shaped stool, unexplained loss of weight or blood in your stool.