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3 Ways to Manage Constipation in the Elderly

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Constipated older man

Constipation is a major problem for the elderly. In 2012, Canadian researchers embarked on a large scale study of the health effects of aging and interviewed several thousand people aged 65 and older. Unfortunately, constipation was found to be a common complaint that affected quality of life. [1]

Why is Constipation a Problem for the Elderly?

Constipation is often a side effect of medication, inadequate diet, lack of exercise or a low fluid intake. Unfortunately, all of these are factors that affect elderly folks and when they occur simultaneously (which they often do), the problems compound each other. However, seniors are not powerless against constipation and certain measures can help minimize its occurrence. Here are three defenses that are easy to implement into nearly any lifestyle.

1. Lifestyle Modifications

According to the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, lifestyle adjustments such as exercise, drinking more water, and consuming more dietary fiber should be the first course of action for managing constipation. [2] Laxatives, suppositories, and enemas may “do the trick” but diet and exercise adjustments are often equally effective and have positive side effects. [3] Even mobility limited seniors may benefit from gentle, low impact exercise such as yoga. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences found that yoga and other stress relieving activities helped relieve constipation in the elderly. [4]

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2. Take a Probiotic

According to the Saint Louis University Division of Geriatric Medicine, the elderly are at often at risk for changes in gut flora. [5] A reduction in healthy bacteria in the intestines can lead to an imbalance that causes digestive disorders and ailments like constipation. One way to counteract the imbalance is to supplement with a good probiotic.

Israel’s Harzfeld Geriatric Medical Center conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which they found that probiotic supplements promote bowel movements for elderly persons. [6] Additionally, the University of Catania in Catania Italy found that not only do some probiotic strains help to relieve elderly constipation, they can provide added health benefits such as relief from diarrhea, lowered cholesterol, less sensitivity to lactose, improved digestion, and an immune system boost. [7] [8]

Why you should be taking probiotics.

3. Take a Gentle Laxative

Most experts recommend that laxatives and other drug therapies should only be considered after natural therapies have proven unsuccessful. [9] I concur. However, if, despite best efforts, constipation persists, a laxative may be the necessary answer for relief. In such scenarios, it’s important to use a safe and gentle laxative. Harsh osmotic and stimulative laxatives can produce very uncomfortable, even dangerous, results and are better avoided. Bulk forming laxatives have been linked to toxic allergic reactions and even blockages. Use, and especially overuse, of these products is ill advised. [10] I recommend an oxygen based laxative like Oxy-Powder. Oxy-Powder is safe, gentle, has been a shining star in clinical trials, and has improved the lives of thousands of people.

Are you a senior citizen who suffers from constipation or are you close to one who has? What methods of relief have worked for you? Please leave a comment below and share your experience with us.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM

References:

  1. Alameel T, Basheikh M, Andrew MK. Digestive symptoms in older adults: prevalence and associations with institutionalization and mortality. Can J Gastroenterol. 2012 Dec;26(12):881-4.
  2. Woodward S. Assessment and management of constipation in older people. Nurs Older People. 2012 Jun;24(5):21-6.
  3. Beverley L, Travis I. Constipation: proposed natural laxative mixtures. J Gerontol Nurs. 1992 Oct;18(10):5-12.
  4. Gupta N, Khera S, Vempati RP, Sharma R, Bijlani RL. Effect of yoga based lifestyle intervention on state and trait anxiety. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2006 Jan-Mar;50(1):41-7.
  5. Bhutto A, Morley JE. The clinical significance of gastrointestinal changes with aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Sep;11(5):651-60. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32830b5d37.
  6. Zaharoni H, Rimon E, Vardi H, Friger M, Bolotin A, Shahar DR. Probiotics improve bowel movements in hospitalized elderly patients–the PROAGE study. J Nutr Health Aging. 2011 Mar;15(3):215-20.
  7. Malaguarnera G, Leggio F, Vacante M, Motta M, Giordano M, Bondi A, Basile F, Mastrojeni S, Mistretta A, Malaguarnera M, Toscano MA, Salmeri M. Probiotics in the gastrointestinal diseases of the elderly. J Nutr Health Aging. 2012 Apr;16(4):402-10.
  8. Hamilton-Miller JM. Probiotics and prebiotics in the elderly. Postgrad Med J. 2004 Aug;80(946):447-51.
  9. Kimberly BS. Constipation in the elderly: implication in skilled nursing facilities. Director. 2007 Summer;15(3):20-3.
  10. Kallman H. Constipation in the elderly. Am Fam Physician. 1983 Jan;27(1):179-84.

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Posted In: Colon Health Blog,Constipation
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