An Unexpected Surgery Side Effect

When most people think about surgery, the main concerns center around recovery. Patients want to know about managing pain, speeding the healing process, and when to expect a return in appetite. However, surgery can come with unexpected side effects, such as constipation. Learn why this problem occurs and what steps to take at home to make using the bathroom post-surgery easier.

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What causes constipation?

Although uncomfortable, people should know that constipation after an operation is completely normal. Several factors can contribute to the common yet annoying condition. The pain relievers prescribed to individuals recovering from surgery can slow bowel activity. Likewise, the general anesthesia and prolonged inactivity accompanying the procedure can cause reduced bowel movements. The altered post-surgical diet can also be a factor for many people, especially if not enough fiber is consumed. The following tips can aid in helping people get back to being more regular.

Get active

Most individuals recovering from surgery are urged to begin gentle activities within a few days of the procedure. Research shows that regular movement can ensure the body is moving waste effectively and that the bowels are functioning correctly. Always get the green light from the doctor before starting an exercise routine post-op, but know that physical activity can help with constipation.

Check the prescriptions

As mentioned earlier, medications can also bring digestive tract movement to a slow crawl rather than a regular hum as intended. Studies have shown that, especially for opioids, the chances of experiencing constipation as a side effect are higher. Known as opioid-induced constipation, roughly 40% of individuals on prescription opioids may suffer from the condition. To counteract this problem, try to switch to an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication.

Get more fiber

Eating a diet high in fiber can aid in preventing constipation, even for people not undergoing surgery. Experts encourage individuals to incorporate more fiber before surgery to prevent bowel discomfort during the initial recovery period. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and beans. Also, consider consuming prunes or prune juice after surgery to achieve better regularity.

Find OTC relief

Opting for both stool softeners and laxatives can also be helpful. Both OTC medications allow for bowel movements to occur more comfortably. However, in more severe cases, a physician may prescribe medication that draws water into the intestines to aid in bowel relief.

Be prepared

Not every individual that undergoes surgery will experience constipation, but the phenomenon is incredibly common. The best option is to create a preventative plan centered around eating a high-fiber diet before surgery. Still, individuals can find relief after the operation by getting active and using OTC medications to help with constipation.

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