Treating constipation

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TREATING CONSTIPATION

WHAT IS AVAILABLE?

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What are the treatment options?

Many people find that making changes to their diet and lifestyle can improve their symptoms. If these don’t help, laxatives are often used.20

What are laxatives?
Laxatives are a type of medicine that can treat constipation. There are several different types of laxatives, and they all have a different effect on your digestive system.20

Bulk-forming laxatives
These work by helping your stools retain water, making them softer, and easier to pass.20

Osmotic laxatives
Osmotic laxatives, such as lactulose work by increasing the amount of fluid in the bowels. This softens yours stools and makes them easier to pass.20

Stimulant laxatives
These are used when stools are soft, but difficult to pass. This type of laxative stimulates the muscles in your digestive tract, helping them to move stools along more quickly. They’re usually only used on a short-term basis.20

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What can I do if my baby is constipated?

If you think your baby is constipated, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

There are many simple tips things you can do that might help your baby:

  • If your baby is breastfed, offer plenty of breastfeeds.14
  • If your baby is formula-fed, offer plenty of water in between feeds. If you're  using formula milk, don't add more water to the mixture.3,14
  • Try gently moving your baby's legs in a bicycling motion or carefully massaging their tummy in a clockwise direction to help stimulate their bowels.3
  • If your baby is eating solid foods, encourage them to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Chop or purée fruit and vegetables if it's easier for them to eat. Apples, grapes, pears and strawberries and the best fruits for constipation.3

You may notice a difference within a few days, but sometimes it takes a few weeks before their symptoms improve. Remember it’s not unusual for a breastfed baby to go a week without having a bowel movement.3

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What can I do if my child is constipated? 

If you think your child is constipated, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If your child is constipated for a long time, it can take longer to get back to normal so it’s important to get things under control.14

In the meantime, simple lifestyle changes may help:3,14

  • Give your child a variety of foods, including plenty of fiber-rich food such as fruit and vegetables
  • Encourage your child to be physically active
  • Make sure your child has plenty to drink
  • Give your child plenty of time to use the toilet, especially while they’re still learning

Constipation is a common condition and there are plenty of treatment options available but speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. 

Constipation in children is common, and it often happens when they’re being potty trained at around two or three years old14

 

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Treating constipation during pregnancy 

There are many things you can do to help ease constipation when you’re pregnant:

  • Start by making sure you’re well hydrated. Try increasing your fluid intake to at least 8 glasses of water per day.16,21
  • Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Aim for 30 g of fiber a day.16
  • Keep active. Light physical activity such as a walk or swim can help to promote normal bowel function. It’s best to avoid strenuous exercise, though.16

If these changes don’t help, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about using a treatment such as lactulose to soften the stools and help restore normal movement.5

Lactulose works in a gentle and effective way to relieve the symptoms of constipation.22 It’s not absorbed by the body, so it can be taken by pregnant and breastfeeding women, and their babies.23

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References
3. NHS. Constipation. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/. Accessed 12 Nov 2019.
5. Cullen G, O’Donoghue D. Constipation and pregnancy. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol 2007; 21(5): 807-18
14. NHS. Constipation in young children. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/constipation-and-soiling/. Accessed 12 Nov 2019.
16. Body C, Christie JA. Gastrointestinal Diseases in Pregnancy: Nausea, Vomiting, Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Constipation, and Diarrhea. Gastroenterol Clin N Am. 2016;45(2):267-83
20. NHS. Laxatives. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/laxatives/. Accessed 12 Nov 2019.
21. Trottier M, Erebara A, Bozzo P. Treating constipation during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. 2012; 58(8): 836-8.
22. Hejl M, Kamper J, Ebbesen F et al. Infantile constipation and Allomin-lactulose. Treatment of constipation in infants fed with breast-milk substitutes. A controlled clinical investigation of 2% and 4% Allomin-lactulose. Ugeskr Laeger 1990; 152: 1819-22.
23. Duphalac Scientific Product Monograph