There is nothing – absolutely nothing! – like being constipated after surgery. Oh dear heavens is it ever wretched. (Unfortunately!) I’ve had to walk several girlfriends through the process in the last month. So, I thought I’d share my (tried and true) step-by-step tips for preventing and eliminating constipation.*
Post surgical constipation stems from taking narcotics. See, here’s the thing: pain medicine (e.g., morphine) slooooows down the passage of digesting food and therefore bowel movements moving through the intestine. FYI, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and iron supplements can also contribute to constipation. For the record, I know that it’s an unsavory topic, but when have I ever been one to shy away from the unsavory?
Back to poop. Many people would agree that the post-surgical, pain-medicine-induced constipation is as bad as the pain from surgery itself. I mean it is AWFUL. Ever since my pesky (horrendous!) bout with post surgical constipation, I have had prolonged issues with it. The Silver Lining is that I’ve found some things that really do work.
Enzymes: increase the level of digestion in the stomach, increasing the amount of food broken down. Therefore less undigested food is passed into the colon, and food nutrients are more available for absorption. I take enzymes with every meal.
When you have to go, GO. Don’t wait. The thing of it is that if you put off the urge, then water gets absorbed from stool and it becomes harder to move it.
Exercise: The more I move my body, the more food moves through my body. It’s a pretty simple and effective concept that works wonders!
- Fruits. Fresh or dried fruits, especially those with skin or seeds (apples, plums, pears, peaches, tomatoes, berries, raisins, and dates) are best.
- Any and all veggies, but especially broccoli.
- Flaxseeds (ground)
- Beans-beans-beans. Lentil salad rocks and rolls!
- Whole Grains. Fiber One and All Bran rock my world. Oatmeal is not too far behind. Adding ground flaxseeds to my cereal and I’m a sure thing.
Fluids! Fluids! Fluids!
- When I say fluids, I mean WATER. Adult beverages (i.e., alcohol), caffeinated beverages (any and all) are dehydrating. When I am backed up, I drink three LITERS of water a day!
- Pineapple juice can help as well.
Probiotics: Though I don’t know (and no one seems to know) whether or not probiotics relieve constipation, what I’ve found is that they tend to prevent me from becoming constipated. I take them everyday.
Everyday, Run-of-the-Mill Constipation
When I first notice that I’m constipated, I begin by assessing my eating habits, fluid consumption and exercise levels. Sometimes, guzzling a couple of liters of water and a run followed by jumping on the trampoline are all I need to get movin’.
If that’s not enough, I try:
Magnesium. Because magnesium is required for normal muscle function (including intestinal muscles!), when a person is deficient in magnesium, constipation can occur. So, adding a supplement has helped me on many occasions.
Natural Stimulant Laxatives
Post Surgical Constipation
When it comes to post surgical constipation, go BIG from the get-go (pun intended)! Please oh please oh please take Colace AND Senekot the minute you start the pain medicine. For some (ridiculous) reason, most hospitals only prescribe Colace. Here’s the thing: Colace is a stool softener and Senekot is a stool mover. To relieve constipation, you need a softener AND a mover. This truly drives me batty in the hospital!
Enemas may also be in order. I know it sounds horrendous. It does. However, if you have post surgical constipation (and if you’ve had it, I know you know what I mean!), then you’ll do ANYTHING to find relief.
* It’s really important to let your doctor know if you become constipated. It is imperative to understand why you become constipated and collaboratively how to relieve it.
What works for you?