Managing Constipation after Surgery

Managing Constipation after Surgery

One of the most common aftermaths of surgery is constipation. One may experience a sudden decrease of fewer than three bowel movements a week, feel the need to strain during bowel movements, have a bloated belly or increased gas. Abdominal or rectal pain and hard stools are also a few symptoms of constipation.

You might feel this incomplete emptying even after bowel movements due to surgical reasons like:

  • Pain Medication: Opioids absorb plenty of water from the gastrointestinal tract slowing down the movement of food and decreasing the urge for bowel movement.
  • Dietary Restrictions: A little to no food or fluid diet after surgery works against the bodily routine of elimination accelerating the chances of constipation.
  • Bed-Rest: Less physical activity is directly proportional to fewer bowel movements.
  • Anaesthesia: The post-surgery paralyzed muscles in the intestine stop functioning till the effect of anaesthesia allows them to wake up, causing a temporary pause in the bowel movements.

To manage the unpleasant experience of constipation after surgery, one can take the following measures:

  • Medications: While medication may cause constipation, medication can also get rid of it. Ask the healthcare provider to prescribe medication or go for over-the-counter medication. Stool softeners and laxatives increase the amount of water in your colon and help stools pass easily. Suppositories to insert into your rectum to soften stool and trigger your intestinal muscles to squeeze also make it easier to pass stool. Stimulants increase intestinal contractions. Osmotics help fluid move through the colon.
  • Fibres: Fibres are organic laxatives that increase water absorption in our colon, which forms bulkier stools and helps stools pass easier. Adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet do the trick. It is best to eat these fruits and vegetables as close to their natural state as possible, i.e. prefer orange over a pulpy juice version of it. Remember, too much fibre can cause diarrhoea and abdominal cramping so it’s important to slowly increase your intake.
  • Fluids: Dehydration dissuades bowel movements. Drinking plenty of fluids in the form of water, tea, juices and decaf coffee is essential for curing constipation. The senna tea is known to have excellent laxative effects and improves post-surgery Opioid-induced constipation when taken daily for six days.
  • Movement: As mentioned earlier, less physical activity is directly proportional to fewer bowel movements. Exercise and physical activity stimulate contractions in the intestinal tract and promote bowel activity. One must aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. It’s important to consult your healthcare provider to confirm the degree of physical activity you would be allowed to engage in post-surgery.
  • Dietary Supplements: Supplements including fibre, kefir, and carnitine, when consumed with a good amount of water conduce the farewell of constipation effectively. It’s essential to consult your doctor before taking the same.

Although opioids and other narcotics are great painkillers to relieve your post-surgical pain, the risk of constipation while taking these medications mustn’t be ignored. You may need to consult with your doctor if lifestyle changes, home remedies, and over-the-counter medications do not yield the desired results.

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