Cancer: "I Have a Major Problem with Constipation"
Problems with constipation are common. People who are dealing with cancer are also often dealing with other issues which can make trouble for the bowels. Pain medicines, decreased activity, poor appetite, and depression can all impact bowel function. To prevent constipation, drink lots of fluids and include more fiber in your diet, exercise, and talk to your doctor about taking a stool softener if you are also taking something to decrease pain.
Tell your doctor
Your doctor should know about problems with your bowels in case there is something wrong that could be causing the constipation. If your doctor has ruled out a physical problem that could be leading to constipation, then he or she may suggest you keep trying your best to address the things you can change to improve bowel function.
Have 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of liquid per day. If you have trouble remembering to drink, carry a bottle of water and have the goal of finishing it by the end of the day. Some people say a well timed hot drink can help to get the bowels moving early in the day. Coffee and tea are good choices.
Get more fiber in your diet
- Choose several servings of raw fruits and vegetables every day. Eat the skins when possible. Raw apples, oranges, pears, berries, raisins, beans, peas, carrots, and broccoli make good snack alternatives.
- Choose whole grain breads rather than more finely ground white breads or highly refined cereals. Examples include whole wheat, dark rye, pumpernickel, and oatmeal breads; muffins and quick breads made with bran, nuts, fruits, seeds, etc.
- High fiber cereals include bran, shredded wheat, whole grain, oatmeal, and granola. Read the nutrition label to choose a high fiber cereal.
- Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of 100% bran wheat germ, or ground flax seed to your favorite cereal and to other foods.
- Select high-fiber snacks foods such as trail mixes, sesame bread sticks, date nut breads, oatmeal cookies, fig newtons, date or raisin bars, granola, prune bread, or whole grain chips.
- If commercial psyllium products are used each day along with enough liquids, it may help to prevent constipation. Metamucil® is an example.
As long as your doctor says it is okay, move as much as you can. Walk around the block, or around inside the house.
Suggestions for Treating Constipation
- Try drinking a warm or hot beverage. This may help to stimulate bowel movements.
- Take walks.
- Drink some prune juice.
- If the above does not work, take a laxative, but do not continue taking laxatives on a regular basis.
- Important: Check with your doctor if constipation persists. If you are taking drugs for pain, they may be adding to your problems with constipation. If so, discuss taking stool softeners with your doctor.
If you are a UW Health patient and have further questions or concerns, please call the nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, (608) 263-9128.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/14/2012
Copyright © 06/22/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#482
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