Bowel Movements (BM) may be altered after bariatric surgery procedures, such as vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RNY). In fact, constipation is a common complaint we see in our patients after weight loss surgery.
The most likely culprits are reduced food intake, dehydration, and hormonal changes after bariatric surgery. Other factors may be anesthesia medication administrated pre-operatively and painkillers prescribed to patients post-operatively.
Slowing of the bowels after gastric sleeve surgery can be quite uncomfortable and should definitely be addressed. To relieve constipation, patients need to increase physical activity and consumption of fluid as well as fiber. It is common to take intermittent doses of Milk of Magnesia or daily doses of MiraLAX. You may even consider using a Dulcolax suppository.
Here, we will share 19 home remedies to alleviate constipation. We will also cover information regarding the causes, risks, prevention, and treatment.
What is Constipation?
Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements and hard to pass stool that is often hard and dry. Other signs and symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, and feeling incomplete in stool passage.
Constipation is in fact among the most common gastrointestinal issues in the United States and is faced by about 15% of the population.
Emptying the bowels less than once a week is considered constipation. Weight loss surgery patients may believe they are constipated if they do not have bowel movements every day.
What Causes Your Pipes to Clog?
Many factors can lead to constipation post gastric surgery, such as reducing food and water intake, hormonal changes, and anesthesia medications. Other factors include:
- Lack of dietary fiber
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water or fluids
- Not being physically active.
- Weak abdominal muscles
- Specific medications (including pain medications or painkillers, antidepressants, some antacid or iron supplements, calcium channel blockers, and more)
- Taking laxatives or using enemas too frequently
- Ignoring the urge to go
- Certain medical conditions or diseases (including diabetes, stroke, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, and hypothyroidism)
In some medical-related cases, such as a strangulated hernia, constipation can be caused by a serious medical issue that requires immediate attention and potentially surgery.
19 Home Remedies to Relieve Constipation After Weight Loss Surgery
We are listing the home remedies that are proven effective on a case-by-case basis to speed up bowel movements after Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Bypass procedures:
Blackstrap molasses is a great home remedy for constipation, which is boiled and concentrated three times. It is high in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which is great for constipation relief. A tablespoon before bed at night should provide some constipation relief by morning.
Fiber helps make things easier by adding mass to your bowel movement, which provides the muscles within your gastrointestinal tract with something to grab onto to keep the food moving along. It also scrubs food and waste particles from your digestive tract and soaks up water. It is good to drink water along with the fiber to help keep your stool soft as well.
High fiber foods are very effective in improving bowel function and alleviate constipation after bariatric surgery. Also, fiber supplements may work better due to reduced stomach size.
Ideally, you should aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day to stay regular.
Healthy food sources filled with fiber include:
3. Healthy Fats
Certain types of fat help to lubricate your intestines and reduce the effects of constipation.
Some sources of healthy fats include:
- Olive, Grapeseed, or Coconut Oil
By simply having a handful of nuts, having a dark leafy green salad with some olive oil dressing, eating some fresh avocado, or spreading some natural nut butter on a piece of multigrain toast, you can help fight off constipation while also providing the body with valuable nutrients.
4. Lemon Water
Citric acid acts as a great stimulant to the digestive system as it helps flush toxins from the body. Lemon juice serves as an excellent source of citric acid and can be easily added to a glass of water or tea. What is great about lemon water is that it has many health benefits while also increasing water intake.
Coffee has been shown to serve as a great way to stimulate your colon and make that trip to the bathroom much easier. Other hot drinks that work much like coffee are hot herbal tea with lemon juice or honey.
Be sure to keep drinking water regularly alongside your coffee intake, or constipation could become worse. See our guide to drinking coffee after gastric sleeve weight loss surgery.
6. Ginger and Mint Tea
Both of these types of tea serve as great home remedies for digestive issues. Peppermint contains menthol, which has an antispasmodic effect that relaxes the digestive tract muscles, thereby making it easier to pass food through the digestive tract. Ginger has a warming effect that helps the body generate more heat, making for faster digestion. Add some lemon, as mentioned above, and you have a great combo.
People also recommend smooth Move Peppermint tea as being effective generally within 6-12 hours. You can take this tea before bedtime.
Because of their high fiber content and the tartaric acid they provide, which has a great laxative effect, raisins serve as a great addition to constipation relief. Eating even just one small box of raisins can potentially cut the time to pass a bowel movement in half. One great recipe you can try out is raisins and almonds with yogurt. The yogurt provides some soothing probiotics, while the nuts provide healthy fats and additional fiber.
8. Prunes and Figs
Prunes serve as a great laxative as they contain great fiber and a compound that triggers the desire to go to the bathroom. If you are looking for a fruit that will not cause quite so much bloating as prunes, figs are a great choice as well.
9. Castor Oil
Castor oil contains a component that breaks down into a substance that stimulates your large intestine. Due to this strong effect, if taken on an empty stomach, castor oil can yield results within 8 hours after consumption. It’s indeed a great option that has been passed down from generation to generation.
Moving around can help get the digestive system kicked into gear. If you eat a meal and feel sleepy, get up and move around a bit to get that digestion process going. It can be as simple as a 15 to 30-minute walk or jog.
11. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds consist of an oil composition which helps to moisturize the intestines. You can add them to foods such as salad, cereal, grind them up in coffee, or add them to foods in whatever creative ways you come up with.
12. Black Seeds
Black seeds contain a lot of fiber and help to improve your overall health. They aid in removing unwanted toxins from the digestive tract and support regular bowel movements.
13. Olive Leaves
Olive leaves help to relieve discomfort and pain, remove toxins from the digestive system, and serve as a great tool in stopping constipation.
14. Flax Seeds
Flax Seeds have been used to treat constipation for centuries. They contain high amounts of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, which help serve as a laxative. Like sesame seeds, flax seeds can be added to foods such as salad, cereal, yogurt, smoothies, soups, and any other fun ideas you can come up with.
15. Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera has also been used for centuries to treat constipation and skin rashes, internal bleeding, burns, and ulcers. It helps promote regularity as well as cleanse the colon of unwanted toxins.
16. Epsom Salt
Epsom salt serves as a good stool softener, which can help make stools easier to pass and promote regularity. Two teaspoons of Epsom salt in a glass of water or fruit juice is all it takes to get the job done. Standard salt also softens stools; however, it will not promote bowel movements that Epsom salt does.
17. Baking Soda
Baking soda can do a great job of neutralizing acid within the stomach and encouraging immediate constipation relief as your body releases gasses. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to a quarter cup of warm water and drink it down to get the job done.
18. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium husk is an edible soluble fiber and prebiotic. Once it is ingested, it expands, forming a gel-like mass by drawing water from the colon. It then promotes easy, healthy elimination by sweeping waste out of the colon more quickly and efficiently.
Also, psyllium husk is known to have positive effects on heart health and cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that psyllium is safe, well-tolerated, and improves glycemic control for people with diabetes. Unlike stimulant laxatives, psyllium husk is gentle and not addictive.
19. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate
Water plays a big role in good health as well as smooth bowel movements. So you must have adequate water intake alongside a healthy diet containing good fiber and some of the above solutions.
48 to 64 ounces of water is required daily after any weight loss surgery!
Honorable Mention: Drink Milk of Magnesia
5 Types of Laxatives and Stool Softeners for Bariatric Patients
Laxatives and stool softeners are okay for short-term use if necessary. However, they can have negative effects on the body when taken too often.
Five different types of laxatives can help you have a bowel movement after gastric sleeve or gastric bypass. These include;
- Stool Softening Laxatives (Typically works in 1 t0 4 days)
- Bulk Creating Laxatives (Typically works in 1 t0 3 days)
- Lubricant Laxatives (Typically works in 5 t0 9 hours)
- Stimulant Laxatives (Typically works in 6 t0 24 hours)
- Saline Laxatives (Typically works in 1 t0 3 hours)
Risks of Laxatives and Stool Softeners After Bariatric Surgery
There are some potential risks and side effects of taking laxatives after gastric bypass surgery or gastric sleeve surgery. Although they prevent constipation, stool softeners and laxatives may impact post-op bariatric health that results in;
- Losing weight: Lack of essential nutrients that can impact losing weight
- Food intake is passed through the body faster and is not fully absorbed or digested by the stomach and intestines.
- Dependency issues within the body.
- Kidney damage
Natural remedies can tie into your post-op diet guidelines and are ideal, long-term solutions to improve bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Risks of Severe Constipation
Potential risks which are faced when struggling with constipation include:
- Fecal Impaction: Stool becomes hardened and packed in the colon and rectum too tightly, making one unable to pass a bowel movement.
- Rectal Prolapse: This condition occurs when part of or all of the rectum slides out of place and sticks out of the anus, turning it inside out.
- Hemorrhoids: Enlarged and swollen veins in the outer area of the anus and the lower rectum.