14. WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS TO PREVENT CONSTIPATION?
As with most things related to the gut, following a healthy, fibre-rich diet can help. And if you’re not exercising regularly and drinking enough water, increasing your physical activity and fluid intake can reduce constipation issues, Dr Chey said.
Some studies have also shown that eating prunes or kiwis can alleviate chronic constipation. Psyllium fibre supplements can also be taken daily if needed – just be sure to drink plenty of water with them, he said.
Eating breakfast, Haller added, as well as drinking coffee can often help maintain regular bowel movements. She also recommended using a Squatty Potty or other toilet stool to improve your posture on the toilet. By bringing your knees above your hips, “it’s putting your body in a more optimal position to have a complete bowel movement”, she said.
Poor coordination or weakness of the pelvic floor muscles can also contribute to constipation. If this is the case, pelvic floor physical therapy has been shown to help.
15. IF I USE OVER-THE-COUNTER LAXATIVES, WILL MY GUT BUILD UP A TOLERANCE OR BECOME DEPENDENT ON THEM?
Effective over-the-counter laxatives like polyethylene glycol, magnesium oxide supplements and stimulant laxatives containing senna or bisacodyl can help address chronic constipation, Dr Chey said.
There’s some concern that regular, long-term use of such stimulant laxatives can cause your colon to lose its normal activity, leading to a dependence. These laxatives appear to be safe, but have only been studied in trials lasting about four weeks, Dr Chey said, so for now, he recommends stimulant laxatives just for occasional or short-term use. There’s more data supporting the safety of prolonged daily use of polyethylene glycol, though.
If you find that you’re regularly relying on laxatives to have bowel movements, talk to a health care provider about other approaches for managing your constipation. Highly effective prescription medications for chronic constipation like lubiprostone, linaclotide, plecanatide and prucalopride are also available, Dr Chey said. “It’s a cool time for constipated patients because there are a lot of options.”
By Alice Callahan © 2023 The New York Times
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.