It’s very common in the post-menopausal or peri-menopausal period for a person to develop constipation. Through complex mechanisms, shifts in hormones can worsen constipation.
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Also, as we get older, it’s more likely that we’ll have other conditions that require medications. Depending on the drug, it can become more difficult to pass stools.
There’s also a higher likelihood that people become less active as they get older. This can be a result of arthritis, fatigue or other reasons and this, too, contributes to constipation.
But you don’t have to be miserable throughout this. We turned to gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, for advice on how to maneuver through this difficult transition.
How to manage your symptoms
It’s not surprising when people develop constipation as they get older. You shouldn’t be alarmed by it, as long as you’ve had a colon cancer screening and continued surveillance if applicable at the appropriate time.
To remedy constipation, you want to manage symptoms. Here are some tips:
1. Increase your activity level.
Become more active, Dr. Lee recommends. “Increasing your physical activity, including resistance training for core body muscle building can help relieve the symptoms,” she says. Don’t forget hydration during the day (drink plenty of water).
2. Eat plenty of fiber
If you can eat between 25 and 50 grams of processed (examples: bread, noodles) and unprocessed (fruits and vegetables) fiber each day, this can help you have more regular bowel movements and more efficient bowel movements, says Dr. Lee.
3. Review your medications
Look at your medications to see which ones may cause constipation. If you suspect a drug you are taking is causing your problem, work with your primary care provider to address it.
4. Consider taking a stool softener
Once you’ve tried to address some of those lifestyle issues, you can try taking a gentle stool softener. “You could start with taking polyethylene glycol (17 grams) every day, every other day or as needed every few days to help you have a better bowel movement,” says Dr. Lee
Other different types of laxatives, such as docusate or senna, can help you if your problem is more severe.
If those over-the-counter stool softeners and laxatives are not effective for you, Dr. Lee suggests talking to a gastroenterologist to discuss what prescription medications might be helpful in addressing your constipation and to rule out any organic process that might be causing your constipation.