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Managing Constipation After Surgery

Worried about feeling backed-up after surgery? Here are a few ideas that may help keep things moving.

Constipation is often an issue after surgery because of your limited ability to move around, lingering effects of anesthesia, and the side effects of some prescribed pain medications.1,2 Defining constipation can be tricky and is usually dependent on the individual.2 For someone who has a bowel movement 4 times a day and suddenly is going 4 times a week, they could be considered constipated. However, if you’re someone who normally only goes 4 times a week, then your condition may be normal. If you’re feeling backed up, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. They may have additional ideas to help manage your constipation after surgery.

According to published literature, one way to help prevent constipation after surgery is to eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water before surgery. Some additional ideas for reducing your chances of becoming constipated may include:1,2

  • A high-fiber diet. Foods that are naturally grown and picked, like vegetables and fruits, are higher in fiber than foods that are manufactured, boxed, or bagged.
  • Foods high in magnesium (prune or pear juice) are helpful. 
  • Adequate water intake. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help keep your body well hydrated.
  • Over-the-counter stool softeners, laxatives, and/or enemas can be used as directed by your physician after surgery.
  • General physical activity can also help stimulate and improve bowel function. Be sure to consult your surgeon about which activities are appropriate for you.
References
  1. Whitlock, J. (2019, Oct 22). Constipation After Surgery. VeryWell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/treat-constipation-after-surgery-4147277?print
  2. Sullivan, D. (2020, Apr 27). Managing Constipation After Surgery. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/constipation-after-surgery
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