Chronic constipation is often cured by natural remedies: A diet with natural fiber from fruits and vegetables, at least eight cups of water a day, and exercise -- plus maybe an occasional laxative from the drug store. But if natural remedies and over-the-counter laxatives such as Metamucil, Citrucel, Colace, and Milk of Magnesia don't help, it may be time to ask your doctor about prescription drugs.
Here are prescription drugs used for the treatment of chronic constipation:
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Amitiza (lubiprostone). Amitiza, is approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic constipation from an unknown cause (not constipation due to another condition or treatment). Amitiza softens the stool by increasing its water content, so the stool can pass easily. This medication is taken twice daily with food. Some reported side effects of Amitiza include headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Linzess (linaclotide). This drug is a capsule taken once daily on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before the first meal of the day. Linzess helps relieve constipation by helping bowel movements occur more often. It is not approved for use in those 17 years of age and younger. The most common side effect of Linzess is diarrhea.
Cephula, Chronulac, Constulose, Duphalac, Enulose, (lactulose). Lactulose, a prescription laxative with a variety of brand names, draws water into the bowel to soften and loosen the stool. Side effects include gas, diarrhea, upset stomach, and stomach cramps.
Miralax, Glycolax (polyethylene glycol). This drug is an osmotic laxative and causes water to remain in the stool, which results in softer stools. For those patients who do not tolerate dietary fiber supplements, this medication may be recommended.
While many people believe that a "magic pill" will solve their chronic constipation, drugs alone are not the answer to ending constipation. Along with taking the prescribed medication or laxative, it's important that you work alongside your doctor to adopt some healthy lifestyle habits that are necessary to resolving constipation:
1. Go to the bathroom at the same time each morning. Make this your morning "habit," as colonic motor activity is highest at this time.
2. Don't ignore the urge to go. Peristalsis of the bowel -- the movements that trigger a bowel movement -- come and go. If you ignore this urge, you may lose the opportunity.
3. Go to the bathroom after meals. The urge to defecate increases after mealtime, so take advantage of your body's signals.
4. Try to chill. Stress can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, including the bowels. It's important to use some type of relaxation technique like meditation, guided imagery, or yoga daily.
5. Drink at least 8 cups of water daily. This helps keep your GI tract healthy.
6. Add wheat bran to your diet. Wheat bran adds bulk to the stool and helps speed the rate of movement through the gut.
7. Aim for at least 4 ½ cups of fiber-filled fruits and vegetables each day, including apples, oranges, broccoli, berries, pears, figs, carrots, and beans.
8. Exercise daily. Being physically active also helps the GI tract function optimally.
FDA: "FDA Approves New Prescription Drug for Adults for the Treatment of Chronic 'Idiopathic' Constipation."
Medline Plus: "Lubriprostone."
Familydoctor.org: "Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet."
FDA: "FDA approves Linzess to treat certain cases of irritable bowel syndrome and constipation."