Laxatives After Gastric Sleeve: Safe?

can I take laxatives after gastric sleeve

Constipation is a common issue after gastric sleeve surgery, which reduces the stomach's capacity and results in lower fluid and fibre intake. This, along with the side effects of medications and supplements, can lead to hardened stools and less frequent bowel movements. While laxatives can provide temporary relief, they are not recommended for regular use as they can cause the bowels to become dependent. Instead, increasing water intake to at least 64 ounces per day, consuming more fibre, and staying physically active are suggested as ways to prevent and treat constipation after gastric sleeve surgery.

Characteristics Values
Should I take laxatives after gastric sleeve? It is not recommended to take laxatives regularly after gastric sleeve surgery. However, in cases of severe constipation, a laxative may be necessary.
Constipation after gastric sleeve Constipation is a common issue after gastric sleeve surgery due to reduced food and water intake, as well as side effects of medications.
Treating constipation Increasing water intake, dietary fiber, and physical activity can help treat constipation. Stool softeners and laxatives may also be recommended.
Water intake Aim for 48-64 ounces of water per day.
Dietary fiber Include high-fiber foods such as lentils, split peas, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
Physical activity Walking and exercise promote bowel motility and can help relieve constipation.
Stool softeners Stool softeners such as Colace or docusate sodium can be used to relieve constipation.
Laxatives Laxatives such as Milk of Magnesia or Miralax may be recommended in severe cases of constipation.

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Laxatives may be necessary to treat constipation after gastric sleeve surgery

Constipation is a common issue after weight loss surgery, including gastric sleeve surgery. It is usually temporary and not serious, but it can become more severe if left untreated. Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than 2-3 bowel movements per week, with hard stools that are difficult to pass. After gastric sleeve surgery, it is normal to experience a change in bowel habits, and this may include constipation.

There are several reasons why constipation occurs after gastric sleeve surgery. Firstly, the reduced stomach capacity means patients eat and drink less, leading to a decrease in fluid and fiber intake. Since water and fiber are crucial for successful bowel function, even a brief reduction can cause a slowdown in bowel movements. Additionally, certain medications such as painkillers, antidepressants, and iron supplements can contribute to constipation.

To treat constipation after gastric sleeve surgery, it is recommended to increase fluid and fiber intake. Drinking at least 64 ounces of water or other sugar-free, caffeine-free fluids daily can help prevent and treat constipation. It is also important to introduce high-fiber foods gradually, such as lentils, split peas, and beans. Exercise, especially walking and core exercises, can also help increase bowel motility and treat constipation.

If these measures do not provide relief, it may be necessary to consider taking a stool softener or laxative. Stool softeners like Colace or docusate sodium can be effective, and some surgeons recommend Milk of Magnesia for constipation during the early postoperative period. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any laxatives, as they should not be used regularly. Bowel obstructions, which require medical attention, can be mistaken for constipation, so it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms and seek advice if needed.

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Constipation is a common issue after gastric sleeve surgery

Causes of constipation after gastric sleeve surgery

There are several reasons why constipation may occur after gastric sleeve surgery:

  • Lack of physical movement: After surgery, patients are advised to rest and refrain from exercising, which can contribute to constipation.
  • Narcotic painkillers: These medications slow down gastric emptying and cause the small intestine to absorb more fluid, resulting in drier stool.
  • Lack of water and fiber: Dietary changes after surgery may lead to decreased water and fiber intake, making it more difficult to regulate bowel movements.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as painkillers, antidepressants, and supplements, can cause constipation and bowel dysregulation.
  • Weak abdominal muscles: Abdominal muscles may be weak after surgery, making it difficult to have regular bowel movements.

Treating and preventing constipation after gastric sleeve surgery

  • Increase water intake: Drinking enough water is crucial for preventing constipation. Aim for 48-64 ounces of water per day and take small, frequent sips throughout the day.
  • Consume high-fiber foods: Include high-fiber foods such as beans, oatmeal, fruits with skin, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
  • Prune juice: Drinking prune juice or adding it to protein shakes can be a good way to increase fiber intake.
  • Physical activity: Gentle exercises such as walking can help alleviate constipation. However, consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine after surgery.
  • Stool softeners and laxatives: If lifestyle changes do not provide relief, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter stool softeners or laxatives such as Milk of Magnesia. However, it is important to use these medications only as directed to avoid dependency.

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Drinking water and exercising can help prevent constipation

Drinking water and exercising are two important ways to prevent constipation after gastric sleeve surgery. This type of surgery significantly reduces the volume of your stomach, which can make it difficult to drink enough water and lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a serious risk after bariatric surgery, and it can cause constipation. Therefore, it's important to sip water throughout the day and aim for a daily intake of 48-64 ounces. In addition to drinking water, eating foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables, can also help you stay hydrated.

Exercising after gastric sleeve surgery can also help prevent constipation. It is recommended that you start with low-impact activities such as walking, light weightlifting, and aerobics. Walking in particular is recommended as soon as possible after surgery and until you are able to perform more strenuous exercises. Gradually increasing your physical activity can help improve your cardiovascular endurance and promote healthy bowel movements.

In addition to drinking water and exercising, there are other ways to prevent constipation after gastric sleeve surgery. It is important to include high-fibre foods in your diet, such as beans, oatmeal, fruits with skin, vegetables, and whole grains. Probiotics, found in natural sources like plain yogurt or fermented foods, can also help promote gut function. It is also recommended to avoid diuretics such as caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration, and to be cautious with certain medications that can slow bowel function, such as painkillers and antidepressants.

While laxatives can provide temporary relief from constipation, they should not be used regularly as they can cause your bowels to become dependent on them, leading to further issues with normal bowel movements. If you are experiencing constipation, it is important to address the underlying causes, such as dehydration, inactivity, or dietary factors, rather than relying solely on laxatives for relief.

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Iron supplements can cause constipation

While laxatives can be used to treat constipation, they are not recommended for regular use as they can cause the bowels to become dependent on them, preventing normal bowel movements from resuming. Instead, it is advised to address the root cause of constipation.

Iron supplements can cause or worsen constipation, with up to 8 out of 10 people struggling with this side effect. This is due to the excess iron in the digestive tract, which affects the balance of gut bacteria and pulls water away from the lower gastrointestinal tract, resulting in dehydrated, harder stools.

To prevent or alleviate constipation caused by iron supplements, the following strategies can be employed:

  • Gradual Introduction: Introduce iron supplements gradually, starting with smaller doses and increasing them over several days until the recommended dosage is reached.
  • Pair with Vitamin C: Take iron supplements with a source of vitamin C, such as a glass of orange juice, to enhance absorption and reduce excess iron in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Adjust Dosage: Consult a healthcare provider about adjusting the dosage, such as taking smaller doses throughout the day or taking the original dosage every other day, to alleviate constipation symptoms.
  • Timing: Take iron supplements on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before or 2 hours after meals, to enhance absorption. However, if stomach upset occurs, take them with a small snack or immediately after meals.
  • Probiotics: Incorporate probiotics from natural sources like plain yogurt or fermented foods, as well as supplemental forms, to promote a healthy gut and gut motility.
  • Fiber-Rich Diet: Consume fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. These can make stools easier to pass and support gastrointestinal transit.
  • Hydration: Stay adequately hydrated by consuming enough fluids, as insufficient water intake is a leading cause of constipation. Aim for 48-64 ounces of water per day.
  • Physical Activity: Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking or exercise, to stimulate healthy bowel movements and promote gut motility.
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Some foods can make constipation worse

While laxatives can provide immediate relief from constipation, they are not recommended for regular use. Instead, it is important to address the underlying causes of constipation and make necessary dietary and lifestyle changes.

  • Dairy Products: Cheese and milk can be constipating for some people. However, this doesn't mean you have to give up dairy entirely. Try reducing your intake and opting for yogurt with probiotics, which can aid in digestion.
  • Fried and Highly Processed Foods: These foods tend to be high in fat and low in fiber, leading to slower digestion and reduced bowel movements. Examples include frozen pizza, french fries, and canned chili.
  • Fast or Prepared Meals: Convenience often comes at the cost of nutritional value. These meals are typically low in fiber, which is essential for promoting healthy bowel movements.
  • Refined Sugar Treats: Pastries, cookies, and desserts high in refined sugar tend to be low in fiber and fluids while being high in fat. This combination can further aggravate constipation.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol can make it difficult for your body to retain water, leading to dehydration, which is a common contributor to constipation. It's important to drink in moderation and stay hydrated by drinking water alongside alcoholic beverages.
  • Gluten-Containing Foods: Grains like wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten, which some people may find constipating. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, avoiding gluten is crucial for gut health.
  • Low-Fiber Grains: Processed grains, such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta, have been stripped of their bran and germ during processing, resulting in a lower fiber content. Opting for whole grains can help increase fiber intake and promote regularity.

It is important to remember that everyone's digestive system is unique, and certain foods may affect individuals differently. If you suspect that a particular food is contributing to constipation, consider reducing your intake and observing any changes in your digestive health. Making informed dietary choices and adopting healthy habits can go a long way toward preventing and managing constipation.

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