One of the unfortunate side effects of chronic, high dose opiate use is constipation. Whether you take methadone for a previous opioid dependency or are on a prescription pain killer, you will likely run into this problem with moving your bowels.
Opioids can affect the gastrointestinal tract in two ways. One, it increases the amount of time that food spends in the bowel. This means that the intestine absorbs more fluid from the stool and makes it harder. Second, some opioids can actually paralyze the stomach, and this keeps the food from moving into the rest of the intestinal tract. No matter what is causing your constipation, here are five ways you can help to relieve this common problem.
Increase Fiber Intake
Fiber is the dietary ingredient that gives bulk to your stools. It is best to get your fiber from your diet, and you can achieve this by increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Many items on the market now make fiber very palatable by putting them in candy bar-like packages. These are a decent way to increase your fiber intake without much fuss.
If you need to get more fiber in or can’t find a way to work more into your diet, you can choose to use a fiber supplement. Most fiber supplements are mixed with a glass of water or juice, such as Metamucil, although you can find pill form supplements, as well. When you take a supplement, it is important to increase your fluid intake to allow the fiber to expand in the gut and pass through easily.
Increase Fluid Intake
The primary problem in constipation is the lack of moisture in the stool. When the stool sits in the large intestine, water is absorbed from it, making it hard and difficult to move. By drinking more water, your intestine will be less likely to pull fluid from the stool, and this will make it easier to move.
You should drink six to eight glasses of water per day, and you should drink more if you are taking a fiber supplement. This will allow the moisture to stay in the stool, and it will be easier for the propulsive mechanism of the intestine to move it forward and out of the body.
Take a Daily Stool Softener
Stool softeners can help you go to the bathroom, but most of the time, they do not usually work in a constipated situation. The best way to relieve chronic constipation is by taking a daily stool softener. These medications, such as Dulcolax, are non-habit forming and gentle on the intestinal tract.
Since they don’t work well in blocked up situations, they are best for preventing the constipation entirely. By taking this medication once or twice daily, you can keep the stool from becoming too hard and keep your stools moving.
Use a Stimulant Laxative
Stimulant laxatives are the types of medications that help you move your bowels when you have a current problem. Gentle, herbal stimulants, such as senna, are safe to take for no more than a few days. You can also take Ex-lax, but you need to use caution when using a stimulant laxative. They can become habit forming.
If you take a stimulant laxative more than a few days per week, the bowel becomes accustomed to the stimulation, and it stops producing its own impulse to move stool. This causes a much more serious case of constipation, because the nerve system mechanism to move stools is interrupted. Only use this method when you haven’t had a bowel movement in three days, and do not take them for more than a week without a doctor’s supervision.
Stop or Taper Off Opioid Drugs
The most effective way to ease opioid induced constipation is to stop the medication. If you stop or taper off, the constipation will resolve on its own, and you will not need to resort to other measures to move your bowels. You can switch over to methadone or Suboxone, but these medications are also opioids and can cause constipation.
One solution is to completely detox from opioids by the rapid detox Waismann Method or traditional weaning from the drug. When you stop the medication by either method, you may experience diarrhea, but your bowels will return to normal within a few days. Stopping the opioid medication is the only sure way to rid you of constipation. All other methods are merely supportive.