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The Worst Ways to Manage Constipation (and What to Do Instead)

The Worst Ways to Manage Constipation (and What to Do Instead)

Constipation, characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool, can significantly impact your quality of life if it’s not managed properly. About 4 million people in the United States complain of having constipation regularly. 

Many old wives’ tales and over-the-counter treatments for constipation exist, but most don’t work and may actually do harm instead.

What follows are some of the worst ways people attempt to manage constipation as well as effective and healthier alternatives provided by Dr. Bharat Pothuri, our gastroenterologist here at GastroDoxs.

Ignoring constipation

One of the most common mistakes people make is ignoring constipation and hoping it will resolve on its own. But chronic constipation is not something to be ignored; it can lead to complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and fecal impaction. Ignoring the problem only prolongs discomfort and increases the risk of complications.

Instead, address the issue promptly by making lifestyle changes and seeking medical advice if necessary. Simple dietary modifications, such as increasing fiber intake and staying hydrated, can often ease constipation. If your symptoms persist, consult our office to find possible underlying causes and to get personalized recommendations for management.

Using laxatives excessively 

You may turn to over-the-counter laxatives as a quick fix for constipation. While these products can provide short-term relief, relying on them excessively can lead to dependence and worsen your bowel function over time. Additionally, some laxatives may cause dehydration or electrolyte imbalances if used improperly.

Instead, use laxatives sparingly and under the guidance of our office. Focus on lifestyle changes such as consuming a high-fiber diet, staying physically active, and establishing regular bowel habits. If laxatives are necessary, opt for gentle, osmotic laxatives or stool softeners rather than stimulant laxatives, which can be harsh on the intestines.

Withholding bowel movements

Notice if you’ve developed the habit of withholding bowel movements due to fear, embarrassment, or discomfort. This habit exacerbates constipation by allowing stool to become harder and more difficult to pass, leading to an uncomfortable cycle of withholding followed by worsening symptoms.

Instead, establish healthy bowel habits by creating a supportive environment and addressing any underlying anxieties or concerns. Establish a regular toilet routine and provide adequate time for bowel movements without rushing or pressure.

Relying on extreme diets or cleanses

Fad diets and detox cleanses are often promoted as quick, easy solutions for digestive issues, including constipation. However, extreme dietary restrictions or rapid weight loss programs can disrupt normal bowel function and may lack essential nutrients needed for overall health.

Instead, focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to support your digestive health. Avoid restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups or promote excessive calorie restriction. 

Disregarding underlying medical conditions

In some cases, constipation may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a thyroid disorder, or a neurological disorder. Ignoring these potential causes and solely focusing on symptom management can delay getting an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Be sure to consult our office if constipation is persistent or accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or changes in bowel habits. We perform a comprehensive evaluation to identify any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to constipation and offer a management or treatment plan.

While it may be tempting to resort to quick fixes or ignore constipation altogether, adopting healthier habits and seeking appropriate medical advice are essential for long-term relief and gut health. Please reach out to our team at GastroDoxs to schedule an appointment so we can help you improve your bowel health and overall quality of life.

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