Constipation is the difficult, infrequent passing of hard stool. For those with constipation, an urge to defecate may be also be present. Constipation can have a wide effect on the body and cause many complications.
What causes constipation?
- Chemotherapy drugs and other medications
- Abdominal surgery
- Eating too little fiber
- Bowel obstruction from scar tissue/tumors
- Being physically inactive
- Stress and anxiety
- Having a diet high in calcium
- Low potassium levels
What happens when people are constipated?
- Less frequent bowel movements
- Hard, dry stools
- Painful, hard to pass bowel movements
- Stomach cramps
- Feeling of fullness and discomfort
What should I eat when constipated?
When constipated drink plenty of fluids and fill your diet with foods rich in fiber to increase mobility of the bowels.
Drink plenty of liquids (8-10 cups per day)
- Decaffeinated tea
- Juice (prune, lemonade)
- Sports drinks (Powerade or Gatorade)
- Whole-wheat products (pastas, breads)
- Fruit (apples, pears)
- Beans (pinto, kidney, refried)
- Bran cereals and oatmeal
- Plain baked potato
- Green leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage)
- Trail mix
What should I NOT eat when constipated?
When constipated avoid foods high in saturated fats, caffeine, dairy, and alcohol, which could all worsen the symptoms.
Foods High in Fat
- Red meat (beef, pork)
- Fried foods (French fries, chips)
- Baked goods (muffins, cakes, pies)
- Energy drinks
- Black tea
- Sour cream
- Ice cream
What else could I do when constipated?
- Gradually increase intake of high fiber foods. Eating too much fiber before your body gets used to it can lead to flatulence and discomfort.
- Drink adequate amounts of fluid per day.
- Exercise regularly.
- Talk to your doctor before taking laxatives, stool softeners, or any other medication.
- Drink hot/warm liquids as it may help relieve constipation. Try drinking hot liquids after each meal.
When should I call my healthcare provider about constipation?
- If you have not had a bowel movement in three days
- If you have bloody stools or blood in the anal area
- If you still have not had a bowel movement 1-2 days after taking a laxative
- If you have stomach cramps, nausea, or vomitting that does not stop