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Constipation in the Elderly

Published on , Last Updated on June 6, 2013

Constipation in Elderly

As we mature with age, our metabolism naturally begins to slow down. A slower metabolism results in loss of muscle tone as well as decrease in intestinal strength. Thus, constipation is more likely to occur when the body’s systems slow down, and is a common ailment for senior citizens.

Facts & Stats About Constipation in the Elderly

It is reported in the Merck Manual of Geriatrics [1]:

  • The most common gastrointestinal complaint in the elderly is constipation
  • Approximately 60% of elderly outpatients report using laxatives for constipation relief.
  • In the institutionalized elderly, approximately 50% report that they suffer from constipation frequently, while 74% claim to be using laxatives every day.
  • Approximately 50% of the elderly describe their constipation symptoms as “infrequent defecation,” while another twenty percent claim they are straining excessively to have a bowel movement, while the last thirty percent say they are experiencing both.

Additionally, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that [2]:

  • Approximately 34&3037; of elderly women and 26% of elderly men report that they suffer from frequent constipationm and that it has lead to a diminished quality of life
  • Another shocking stat, is that approximately 75&3037; of hospitalized elderly patients depend on laxatives for regulating their bowel movements. Nursing home patients are also included in this group.

Causes of Constipation in the Elderly

Poor and Unbalanced Diet

Regardless of age, there are many foods that may cause constipation, especially for seniors. If you consume excessive amounts of refined and processed foods, dehydrating fluids like coffee and alcohol, or any foods low in fiber and high in fat, you actually increase the chances of becoming constipated. Anything that is processed, micro-waved, pasteurized, homogenized, boxed or canned has very little, if any, nutrient value. Our elders tend to lose interest in eating, and end up choosing foods that are either quick and convienent.

They may find themselves consuming fast foods, for example, which are low in fiber, but high in fat and sodium. They may also purchase microwave ready foods, also low in fiber and high in fat. Another possible reason for constipation in the elderly, is the difficulty chewing or swallowing high fiber foods like fruits, nuts and vegetables. Instead, older people will find themselves eating softer foods that are more likely to be refined and processed, such as ice cream and cheese.

Poor Bowel Habits

You should never fight the urge when nature calls. No matter how bad of a rush you may be in, or how busy you are at that moment, make your health a priority and find the nearest bathroom when you get “the” urge. Often times, the elderly unintentionally train their bowels to become constipated. Sometimes, they withhold their bowel movements when the urge strikes, because they are not able to get to the bathroom on time due to the difficulty in moving quickly. As such, when the urge to have a bowel movement is suppressed too often, and often leads to chronic constipation and diminished bowel efficiency.

Lack of Exercise

Lack of exercise can cause constipation in the elderly. Although doctors are still looking to understand the connection between lack of physical activity and constipation, it is well recognized that individuals unable to exercise for extended periods, experience constipation, among other health problems. Simply going for a walk every day is one of the best ways to stay active and keep your intestinal tract moving.


Specific medications cause constipation as a side effect in the elderly. Such medications, especially opiates and calcium channel blockers, can potentially decrease gastrointestinal activity, causing changes in bowel function and movement.

Below is a list of common medications taken by the elderly, which may cause constipation. If you are worried that your medication is causing you to become constipationed, it is always wise to check with your doctor before you stop taking them.

  • Iron supplements
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Calcium channel blocking medications
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antispasmodics
  • Antiparkinson drugs
  • Antacids containing calcium and aluminum

Many elderly people are under the impression that they only need to have two to three bowel movements a week or less. Colon health and gastrointestinal problems are two of the most over-looked health concerns in today’s society. Due to the poor diet in America, 200 million or more people suffer from constipation and do not have at least two bowel movements daily.

A clean and healthy colon is one of the strongest assets you can have for preventing illness and disease, especially for senior citizens. Be proactive and care for your body NOW, so you can enjoy a life of health and happiness in your mature years. Oxy-Powder® has been clinically proven to relieve the symptoms of constipation, and help keep your bowels moving regularly.

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


  1. The Merk Manual. Geriatrics.
  2. David C. Schaefer MD, Lawrence J. Cheskin MD. Constipation in the Elderly. Am Fam Physician. 1998 September 15. 58(4):907-914.

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Posted In: Colon Health,Colon Health Blog,Constipation
  • Uncle John

    My 82 year old Uncle suffered from cronic constipation. He discovered a remedy that he wanted to share on the internet. Believe it or not, he said if you eat Wendy’s Chili for 2+ weeks, it will tremendously help reduce your constipation. He continues to eat Wendy’s chili everyday for lunch.

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