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Top Tips for Constipation

February 27, 2017 | Dr. Ray Bologna, MD

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If you are experiencing constipation, it might feel difficult to overcome, but there are many ways to help with constipation. In fact, many women have difficulties with chronic constipation, which affects 16% of patients.

Any degree of constipation has the potential to lead to pelvic floor problems, so it’s important that you discuss constipation with your provider. A full colon leaves little room for your bladder; this results in the feeling of urinary frequency and urgency. Constipation can also lead to an increased number of urinary tract infections, pelvic pain, and pain during sexual activities.

The American Gastroenterological Society defines chronic constipation as having less than three bowel movements per week for three weeks. Correcting constipation requires finding a daily routine, so consult your provider about different strategies.

You don’t have to have a bowel movement every day.
A daily bowel movement is the goal, but should require minimal straining. Constant straining from constipation can result in prolapse or loss of pelvic organ support. Particularly, a rectocele, the loss of support between the rectal wall and vaginal wall can result in a vaginal bulge. Often with a rectocele, a patient will sense that their stool is stuck and they need to push vaginally or near the rectum to have a bowel movement.

There is a grading scale—the Bristol Stool Scale—to help you better understand your stool.

You shouldn’t take laxatives on a regular basis.
If you are straining in order to have a bowel movement, you may resort to laxatives. Although laxatives can help temporarily, don’t use them for extended periods of time. Chronic laxative use can result in bowel movements becoming dependent on the laxative. Sometimes further evaluation with a colonoscopy is recommended.

There are many ways to help chronic constipation.

  • Drink adequate amounts of non-bladder-irritating fluids. Swap out caffeinated beverages for a glass of water.
  • Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially because apples have 4.4 grams of fiber.
  • Get your fiber! Dietary fiber recommendations for women are 25 grams per day from food, but fiber supplements can help in addition to natural fiber. Ultimately, do what works best for you. If you choose to use supplements, take them in the morning to draw fluid into the colon.
  • Check your medications. Medications can frequently cause changes in bowel habits. Review your medications for potential side effects and discuss options with your provider. Unfortunately, many of the medications used for overactive bladder can result in constipation.

Many patients fluctuate between constipation and frequent loose stools. This common problem is something providers deal with on a regular basis. Although chronic constipation can be a challenge, drink plenty of water, maintain a healthy diet, and review your medications for constipation-related side effects. Before you know it, these small tweaks will transform into a daily routine.

Find more articles on Bowel Problems and Accidental Leakage