Pharmacy shelves offer consumers a wide array of products to relieve constipation. However, it’s important to know that these products are not interchangeable and some must be used with much caution – or avoided entirely – depending on the person’s health condition.
Generally speaking, constipation is when stools are hard and dry, and the individual has fewer than three bowel movements per week. What is considered a “normal” frequency can vary greatly from one person to another, however. Constipation can be prevented by modifying certain dietary habits, such as drinking more water or juice and eating more fibre. Whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables all contain fibre that helps promote regularity. These foods should be an important part of our daily diet.
If constipation develops despite these measures, there are many non-prescription products available to relieve it. They do not all act equally quickly, however, and they are not recommended in all cases. Some, like drinkable phosphate enemas, are very powerful and can cause dehydration and kidney problems, particularly in the elderly.
A study published recently in a major American journal reports on eleven cases of elderly individuals whose kidneys shut down after they used a drinkable phosphate enema, causing death in five of them and a lengthy hospital stay in three others. In most cases, the persons already had kidney problems before they used the enema (kidney function naturally decreases with age). Of the eleven cases reported, only one person had used the enema following a doctor’s orders in preparation for surgery. The other ten had used it to relieve constipation. There is no doubt that this type of enema was not the most appropriate treatment for them.
If you suffer from constipation, speak to your pharmacist before randomly purchasing a product. Your pharmacist can recommend the product best suited to your needs and health condition