What to Do When You Can’t Go 2, Part 2 Healthy Habits

What to Do When You Can’t Go 2, Part 2

If you’ve ever been backed up, you know that even mild irregularity can be a pain in the you-know-what—literally.

But severe constipation is no joke. If natural remedies, like adding fiber to your diet, aren’t doing the trick, it’s time to move on to the big guns.

Laxatives are a quick way to relieve the problem and come in a variety of forms (liquids, tablets, capsules, suppositories and more). We’ve broken down the options:

  • Bulk laxatives (fiber supplements) help move food from the stomach through the intestines to get the process going. Popular brands include Metamucil, Benefiber, Citrucel and FiberCon.

    Metamucil Multihealth Fiber Orange Smooth 30 doses jar. Metamucil brand is owned by Procter and Gamble.
    Metamucil Multihealth Fiber Orange Smooth 30 doses jar. Metamucil brand is owned by Procter and Gamble.
  • Hydrating laxatives (osmotics) pull water from surrounding tissue into the colon, which softens the stool and increases bowel movement. Brands to know? MiraLAX, Cephulac (caution: this gets things going quickly for many people), and Milk of Magnesia. Some doctors suggest starting out with just a daily magnesium supplement.
  • Stool softeners draw water and fats into the stool, which allows it to move through the body more easily (look for Colace and Surfak brands).
  • Stimulants trigger the intestinal muscles to contract, which makes you go to the bathroom. Look for brands such as Dulcolax, Correctol, Ex-Lax and Senokot.
  • Lubricants, like mineral oil and liquid paraffin, help stool move more easily through the intestine.

Not quite ready to take a walk through the laxatives aisle? Not to worry. There are several relatively simple things you can do to prevent and treat constipation.

  • If you know certain foods make you constipated, try to avoid them. Common problem foods include cheese, milk, meat, eggs and bananas.
  • Eat more high-fiber foods, such as lentils, wheat bran or quinoa.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid getting dehydrated. This is especially important if you’re eating more high-fiber foods, because fiber absorbs a lot of water in the bowels (which makes stools softer and easier to pass).
  • Boost your diet with foods considered probiotics, like yogurt. Probiotics contain organisms such as bacteria and yeast that help digestion.
  • Have a cup of coffee! It acts like a mild laxative, though other warm beverages may help stimulate bowel movements, too. Try a cup of herbal tea, or even some hot water with a squeeze of lemon.

When in doubt, consider Grandma’s constipation remedy—prunes. Research has shown that they really do work. In one study, participants who ate about seven prunes twice a day had less constipation than those who took regular doses of a bulk laxative.

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