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How do you treat constipation in the elderly?

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Quick Answer

While constipation can be relieved through a high-fiber diet and plenty of fluids, Mayo Clinic recommends that treatment for the elderly focus on education about how diet, exercise and technique affect their bowel movements. Exercise combined with a fiber supplement mixed with water can be effective.

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Overusing laxatives can make the body become dependent on them, warns Krisha McCoy for Everyday Health. Because of this, laxatives are not recommended for long-term use and only as a last resort. When treating the elderly, preserving quality of life is important, states Mayo Clinic. Starting the morning with mild physical activity, a hot caffeinated beverage, a high-fiber cereal and another hot drink can drastically improve bowel movements.

In general, constipation can be treated by eating plenty of fruits, whole grains and vegetables, and drinking plenty of fluids, notes McCoy. Meals high in fat, dairy and sugar can contribute to constipation. Waiting too long to have a bowel movement can trigger or worsen constipation.

There are three primary types of constipation, according to Mayo Clinic. Functional constipation is characterized by small, hard stools that pass with heavy straining and may be accompanied by abdominal pain. Pelvic floor constipation, or when the body is unable to pass stool fully, is caused by weakness in the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Slow transit constipation occurs due to partial paralysis of the colon.

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