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preventing constipation

by Diane K. Newman, DNP, FAAN, BCB-PMD

Preventing constipation is the best approach to most bowel problems and can help you be successful in keeping your bowels regular and avoiding constipation.

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How To prevent constipation and other bowel problems

  • Identify your normal bowel habits and do not rely on laxatives.
  •  Eat a well- balanced diet, including grains, fruits, vegetables and add unprocessed bran.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Exercise regularly even if its walking in the mall or walking your dog.

  • Allow for scheduled time (20 to 30 minutes) after breakfast or dinner to have an undisturbed bowel movement.

  • Never ignore your urge to defecate.

How to maintain regular bowel movements

To help you have regular bowel movements, follow these steps:

Step 1. Try to have a bowel movement in a private place and after a meal, such as breakfast. Both eating and the smell of appetizing foods can cause your bowels to move.

Step 2. Drink something warm with your breakfast, such as warm water. This will help the bowels to move.

Step 3. Sit on the toilet or bedside commode 20 minutes after eating breakfast.

Step 4. Put your feet up on a footstool and push your body forward a little while on the commode.

Step 5. Massage or rub your lower stomach to push the bowel movement into your rectum.

Step 6. Have patience—it may take about 20 to 30 minutes for you to have a bowel movement.

Step 7. Use Glycerin or Dulcolax suppository, if necessary, to make it easy to move your bowels. Insert a bisacodyl or glycerine suppository in your rectum within 1 hour before breakfast. Place suppository against the rectum wall and administer daily until a consistent bowel pattern is identified.

Step 8. Put a lubricated (with K-Y Jelly) finger in your rectum, if necessary, to help your bowels move.

Wash hands before and after doing this.

Special Bran Recipe for Constipation

If you are constipated, the following recipe will help you:

Mix together:
1 cup applesauce
1 cup coarse unprocessed wheat bran
¾ cup prune juice

This mixture will be of a pasty consistency. 

Refrigerate in a covered container between uses.

How Often Do I Eat the Special Bran Recipe?

Begin with 2 tablespoons of the mixture every day with a glass of water. Take mixture in the evening for a morning bowel movement. Increase the bran mixture by two tablespoons each week until your bowel movements are regular. Always drink one large glass of water with the mixture. After 7 to 10 days increase this to three tablespoons and increase it by a tablespoon a week until your bowels become regular.

What If I Don't Like the Special Bran Recipe?

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Just add unprocessed wheat bran to your diet. Start by using 1 to 2 tablespoons every day. If necessary for regulation, increase bran slowly over several weeks to approximately 6 tablespoons every day.

How to Add Bran To Your Diet

Keep bran in a bowl or shaker on the table and sprinkle it on ice cream, vegetable and fruit salads, or cottage cheese. Cook with bran and add to baked muffins, breads , and cookies when baking or in foods like applesauce, cereals, sauces, gravies, or puddings. 

Will Bran Harm Me?

NO! The normal reaction to bran is stomach bloating and increased gas. These symptoms usually last for only the first week. If symptoms last longer, contact your nurse or doctor, immediately.

References

Behm, R.M. (1985) A Special Recipe to Banish Constipation. Geriatric Nursing. 6(4):216-217.

Badiali, D., Corazziari, E., Habib, FI., Tomei, E., et. al. (1995) Effect of Wheat bran in treatment of chronic nonorganic constipation - A double-blinded controlled trial. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 40(2): 349-356.

Benton, JM., O'Harra, PA., Chen, H., Harper, DW., Johnston, SF., (1997) Changing bowel hygiene practice successfully: A program to reduce laxative use in a chronic care hospital. Geriatric Nursing. 18(1)12-17.

Beverley, L, Travis, I. (1992) Constipation - Proposed Natural Laxative Mixtures. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 18(10):5-12. 

Chassagne, P., Landrin, I., Neveu, C., Czernichow, P., et.al. (1999) Fecal Incontinence in the institutionalized elderly: incidence, risk factors, and prognosis. The American Journal of Medicine. Feb 106:185-190.

Chiang L., Ouslander J., Schnelle J., Reuben, D. (2000) Dually incontinent nursing home residents: Clinical characteristics and treatment differences. J Am Geriatr Soc. 48(6): 673-676. 

Doughty, D. (1996) Physiologic Approach to Bowel Training. JWOCN. 23(1): 46-56.

Howard, LV., West D, Ossip Klein DJ. Chronic constipation management for institutionalized older adults. Geriatric Nursing. 21(2): 78-82.

Jackson S., Weber A., Hull AT., Mitchinson A., Walters M. (1997) Fecal Incontinence in women with urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Obstet Gynecol. 89(3): 423-427.

Jensen, L. (1997) Fecal Incontinence: Evaluation and Treatment. JWOCN. Sept 24(5):277-282.

Jensen, LL. (2000) Assessing and treating patients with complex fecal incontinence. OstomyWound Management. December 46(12): 56-60.

Johanson, JF., (1998) Geographic distribution of constipation in the United States. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 93(2): 188-191.

Ko, CY., Tong, J., Lehman, RE, et. al. (1997) Biofeedback is effective therapy for fecal incontinence and constipation. Arch Surg. 132:829-834.

Kumar, D., Bartolo, DCC., Devroede, G., Kamm, MA., Keighley, MRB., et. al. (1992) Symposium on constipation. International Journal of Colorectal Disease. 7:47-67.

Nelson R., Norton N., Cautley E., Furner S. Community-based prevalence of anal incontinence. JAMA. 1995; 274(7): 559-561.

Patamkar, SK, Ferrara, A., Levy, JR, Williamson, PR, Perozo, SE, (1997) Biofeedback in colorectal practice: a multicenter statewide, three-year experience. Diseases Colon Rectum. 1997;40:827-831.

Poulton, B., Thomas, S. (1999) The Nursing Coat of Constipation. Primary Health Care. November, 9(9):17-20.

Smith DA, Newman DK. (1989) The bran solution. Contemporary Long Term Care. 12:66.

Venn MR, Taft L, Carpentier B, Applebaugh G. (1992) The influence of timing and suppository use on efficiency and effectiveness of bowel training after stroke. Rehabilitation Nursing. May-June 17(3): 116-120.

Posted February 2003
Updated June 2009
 

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