One of the most common complaints people have after weight loss surgery is constipation. While some people may feel constipated if they aren’t having daily bowel movements, constipation is usually defined as having hard stools or bowel movements that occur less than once a week.
In most cases, constipation is caused by a reduction in food and drink consumption. It may also be caused by iron supplements, narcotic pain killers, tranquilizers, antidepressants, or weak abdominal muscles.
To prevent or relieve constipation:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Women should get at least 48 ounces of liquids each day and men should strive to drink 64 ounces per day to avoid dehydration and constipation.
- Add fiber to your diet. In addition to eating fiber-rich foods like fiber-fortified breakfast cereals and vegetables, you may also try fiber supplements such as Metamucil, Citrucel, or Benefiber. If taking a fiber supplement, stick with liquid or chewable tablets as opposed to hard pills that you may have problems swallowing. Remember that fiber works by absorbing water, so be sure to drink plenty of liquids when you’re adding fiber to your diet.
- Take vitamin C supplements. Nearly all vitamins can help relieve constipation when you increase your intake, but taking vitamin C or ascorbic acid especially can help relieve constipation and assists with vitamin absorption. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin A are the exception as they are not known to promote more frequent bowel movements or softer stools.
- Do abdominal exercises that strengthen the muscles used in bearing down.
- Do not ignore the urge to use the bathroom. Some people exacerbate the symptoms of constipation by trying to put off using the restroom until a more convenient time. For most people, the need for a bowel movement occurs shortly after breakfast. That is the natural and easiest time to have a bowel movement and should not be ignored.
- Try suppositories, stool softeners, or enemas if constipation persists. Stool softeners such as Colace, Peri-Colace, or P-Col-Rite help increase the water content of stool, which can make bowl movements more comfortable.
As a last resort, you may try taking an electrolyte laxative such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, Magnesium citrate, Milk of Magnesia, or Colyte. Do not take laxatives that directly stimulate the bowel smooth muscle, such as Senecot, as your body will develop a tolerance and more and more will be required over time.