Living With Constipation
Last updated: December 2022
Before I was officially diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my No. 1 symptom was constipation, but at the time, I didn't know it was a problem. I'd had a few bowel movements each week for as long as I could remember and I wasn't aware that there was anything unusual about this until more symptoms of UC started to show up.
Is constipation a symptom of UC?
In the beginning, my frequent constipation actually delayed getting a UC diagnosis because my GI didn't think my constipation was a symptom of UC. But he was wrong. In a 2018 study, it was shown that 46% of UC patients experience constipation.1 When constipation is exhibited with other abdominal symptoms it is known as “proximal constipation.”1
If you're one of the lucky 46% of people who live with UC and regular constipation, what can you do about it? The first stop is always a chat with your doctor. Constipation can be increased when you're in a flare because of inflammation and swelling inside your intestines so it’s always good to tell your doctor and maybe even start treatment before you're in a full-blown flare.
Some recommendations for constipation
After talking to your doctor, they may recommend any of the following:
- Stool-bulking laxatives: They do just what they say, add more bulk to your stool.
- Osmotic laxatives: These are a stool-softener and add more water to your intestines.
- Fiber - Add fiber to your diet through supplements or an increase in veggies, fruits, and whole grains.
It's possible that adding one of these may give you some relief but make sure to talk about your doctor about using them for the long term if your constipation continues.
Hydration to aid with constipation
The next stop on this train is to assess your water intake. As someone with UC you should be drinking more than the recommended 8 glasses of water a day anyway. If you experience regular constipation, it's time to up your game! I find that the bigger my cup or water bottle, the more water I drink. So get your hands on a massive water bottle and put in some work towards drinking more water.
Move your body to move your bowels
Once you've got your water, the next step is to move your body! Have you ever noticed that after a long walk you sometimes feel the need to poop? Or have you ever heard about long-distance runners needing the facilities during their marathons?
Moving your body helps to move your bowels! An increase in movement doesn't need to be heavy and intense exercises but simply a walk around the block could help get things going in the right direction!
Constipation isn't a fun side effect of UC, but it's important not to ignore it as it could be an early sign of a flare. If you experience constant constipation, reach out to your doctor and try some of the suggestions I’ve listed here.
What has been the most helpful for managing IBD symptoms?