According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, constipation, affecting more than 2.5 million Americans, can be caused by improper diet, dehydration or more serious illnesses. After discovering what your symptoms are caused by, you can determine what the best treatment is. Leaving constipation untreated can lead to more serious developments like hemorrhoids or prolapse of the large intestine.
Diet maintenance. Maintaining a healthy diet is a good way to treat and prevent future instances of constipation. Getting the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day keeps your digestive system healthy and moving properly. Eating a diet that has enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, in addition to taking fiber supplements, can ensure that you get the adequate amount of fiber per day.
Laxatives. One of the best treatment options to get your digestive system moving again is a laxative. There are two types of laxatives: bulk forming and saline laxatives. Bulk forming laxatives, like Metamucil and Citrucel, absorb the body’s water into the stool, making it softer, but can lead to dehydration if water isn’t replaced. Saline laxatives, including milk of magnesia, draw fluids specifically from the colon to moisten bowel movements. These laxatives are used for acute constipation, but can rob the body of electrolytes with extended use.
Stool softeners. Stool softeners differ from laxatives in that they don’t encourage bowel movements, but make stool softer so it is easier for your body to move it naturally. Softeners keep stool moist without robbing the body of water, preventing dehydration that can accompany use of laxatives. This makes bowel movement easier without detrimental effects.
Other medications. Other oral medications that help treat constipation include lubricants, which make it easier for stool to move through the intestines; stimulants, which help with intestinal contractions that help move the stool through the body; and osmotics, which help fluid flow through the intestines in a way that promotes bowel movements.
Natural remedies. Several different foods act as natural laxatives. Adding almonds, mint or soybeans to your diet can help move things along naturally. Coffee also has laxative-like effects for some digestive systems, but is also a diuretic, which can make constipation worse. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids when using any constipation treatment because many of them can cause dehydration.