Constipation can lead to a build-up of faeces in your bowel. This puts pressure on your insides and causes pain and discomfort. Treatments for constipation aim to encourage you to go to the toilet to empty your bowel. This should relieve your symptoms.
One of the ways to increase the frequency of your bowel movements is to increase your daily fibre intake. Fibre makes up the bulk of your stool, making it easier for it to pass through your digestive system.
There are plenty of ways to increase daily fibre intake, either by eating the right foods such as plenty of green vegetables and high-fibre cereals, or by taking fibre supplements such as ispaghula husk (fybogel) or psyllium husk. These often come in the form of sachets that are mixed with water and drank.
If increasing your daily fibre intake doesn’t help with your constipation then your doctor may suggest that you try laxatives to encourage you to clear your bowel. Some of these can, however, cause damage if used continuously for long periods of time.
Find out more about different types of fibre altering your diet and fibre supplements and replacements.
There are two main types of laxatives; stimulant and osmotic.
Stimulant laxatives contain ingredients that encourage the muscles in the bowels to contract. This aids the passage of the stool through the bowel.
Laxatives of this kind include Dulcolax, castor oil, Senokot and “sacred bark tea” and are mostly bought over the counter.
Stimulant laxatives are not suitable for long term use, as they will stop working over time. Worse that this, they may even cause damage to the bowel.
Osmotic laxatives work by drawing water that has been absorbed from your stool back into the bowel, loosening the contents and making it easier to pass through your intestines. These laxatives can either be bought over the counter (Movicol, Normacol, Epsom Salts) or prescribed by your doctor (Lactulose, Laxido). Whilst taking osmotic laxatives, it is crucial that you also drink a lot of water to help them work, as there has to be plenty of water in your body available to be drawn into the bowel to loosen the stool.
One of the problems with some osmotic laxatives is that they can cause more abdominal bloating and wind. This is because bacteria living in the bowel ferment them. Other osmotic laxatives do not have this effect. It is better to take those that do not worsen bowel gas!
New Prescription Medicines for Constipation
More recently, some new prescription drugs have become available. These are aimed at treating constipation in IBS patients.
Lubiprostone (Amitiza), specifically designed for women, encourages bowel movements and softens the stool to make it easier to pass. This drug has proven very effective at relieving constipation in female sufferers; however it does have potential side-effects, including nausea, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Another drug, linaclotide (Linzess), works in both men and women to encourage bowel movements and relieve constipation.
Getting the correct treatment often involves a degree of trial and error. It is useful to do this under specialist guidance to ensure you get it right. Our specialists are here to help. If you would like our advice, please call for a private consultation on 020 7183 7965.