What happens in the bathrooms stays in the bathroom…except after gastric sleeve surgery. Because sleeve brothers and sisters talk about everything, am I right? Including, yes, constipation. It might be a touch embarrassing, but it’s very common after the sleeve, so rest assured that you’re in good company. Here are a few things to help you, ahem, get going again.
Grab Your Water Bottle
It’s a cliché because it’s true. Getting enough fluids is crucial to avoiding constipation. It can be tough in the days following surgery to drink enough, but it shouldn’t be a long-term problem. Remember that you need at least 64 ounces of water or other non-carbonated, sugar-free, caffeine-free beverages a day to keep your colon (and the rest of your body) happy. Some people love the effects of coffee first thing in the morning to send them happily running to the bathroom, but remember that caffeine is a diuretic. If it works for you in the morning, great. Just don’t drink caffeine throughout the day, or it will flush fluid out of your body. Which is the opposite of what you want.
It can be hard to get the fiber necessary to keep you regular when you’re cutting down on carbs, as most of my patients do. The secret is eating veggies like bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, and leafy greens. Not only do they contain a good amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but they also boast a high water content. Other high-fiber, sleeve-approved foods to consider are beans, lentils, quinoa, and oatmeal. You can also try sprinkling some unprocessed bran into hamburger meat, on yogurt, etc. Remember to increase your fiber intake slowly, though, to avoid painful bloating and making your stomach problems worse.
Speaking of “worse,” some foods—like bananas, cheese, and peanut butter—are known to be common constipation culprits. If it’s a recurring struggle for you, try limiting these binding foods and see if it makes a difference.
Walk it Out
Exercise is pretty much a cure all, and that includes constipation. One of the reasons we encourage walking right after surgery is get your insides moving and grooving again, and after you heal, it can be a secret weapon to living the “regular” life. You’ve probably heard that sitting too much will cause stool to harden in the colon. When you exercise (preferably daily), it literally loosens things up in there so you don’t experience problems. It’s just another good reason to grab your walking shoes, hop on a bike, or hit the local lap pool.
The Role of Medications
What you put into your body is a double-edged sword. As with foods that are known to bind you up, some oral medications and supplements are notorious for doing the same thing. Iron is a good example. Many of my patients take vitamin and mineral supplements after surgery, and the iron in there can be a problem. The solution isn’t to stop taking iron (unless your physician recommends doing so), but rather to chose your iron carefully. Reach for ferrous fumerate or ferrous gluconate if your colon is unhappy with other forms. Know that other common medications, including some tranquilizers and antidepressants, can wreak similar havoc with your bowel movements. Ask your doctor about alternatives if you’re concerned.
While some pills and supplements can stop you up, others can help you go. If you’re already constipated, a stool softener can work wonders, as can a laxative like Miralax. Just don’t use laxatives often, or your body can become dependent on them in order to do what should come naturally. If you’re looking for a daily fix to (hopefully) recent future constipation, add fiber pills or gummies to your routine or mix powders like Metamucil or Benefiber into some of those all-important beverages.
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