If you are having fewer than three bowel movements each week or have small, hard movements that are difficult to pass, your doctor may recommend a laxative. Depending on the type of laxative you use, you may need to alter your daily eating plan--at least in the short term. Always consult a doctor before taking medications or making dietary changes.
Replace the Caffeine
Replace caffeine--containing beverages with other fluids such as water, herbal or decaffeinated tea, juice and soup because caffeine can raise your risk of dehydration, which makes it harder for you to have a bowel movement. Be especially wary of caffeine if you take a stimulant laxative, because it can have an additive effect, raising your risk for gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea and dehydration. Stimulant laxatives are considered the harshest laxative type, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, or AAFP. They work by causing your bowel to contract and move the stools. Consult your doctor before using any herbal tea, however, because some, such as dandelion tea, have a diuretic effect and raise the risk of dehydration.
Fit in Fiber
Cut back on foods that are high in sugar or fat like cheese, processed foods and sweets as they promote constipation. Instead, add more fruits, vegetables and other foods that have fiber, such as cereal containing bran, recommends AAFP. Add fiber to your diet gradually to reduce bloating and gas -- especially if you are using bulk--forming laxatives such as oat bran, psyllium, polycarbophil or methylcellulose, which can cause similar side effects. Work up to eating at least 38 grams of fiber daily if you are a man and 25 grams of fiber daily if you are a woman. Make a minimum of 2 ½ cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit part of your daily diet, recommends AAFP. Getting enough fiber improves your bowel movement regularity.
Milk, Supplements and Medication
You can still drink milk when you take laxatives, but you may need to watch the time frame. For example, do not drink milk just prior to using the stimulant laxative bisacodyl, because it can make bisacodyl tablets dissolve too quickly, raising your risk for stomach irritation, according to the American Cancer Society. Consult a health-care provider about food interactions with the specific laxative you are taking. Also, discuss with your doctor the time frame for taking herbal supplements and medications when using laxatives. In general, you need to take supplements or medications two hours before or two hours after your laxative.
Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration and is contraindicated when taking laxatives. That means you need to stick to nonalcoholic drinks and consult a doctor before combining alcohol with a laxative. You need to be especially concerned about dehydration and subsequent electrolyte imbalances, such as low potassium levels, when taking saline and osmotic laxatives, though it's a concern with all types of laxatives. Saline laxatives draw water you're your colon to make passing your stool easier. Osmotics alter the way fluid flows through your colon. If you have diabetes, you need to be monitored for electrolyte imbalance when taking osmotic laxatives. Electrolyte imbalances such as low potassium can cause constipation, fatigue and weakness, and even abnormal heart rhythm, paralysis and death, according to PubMed Health.
Is This an Emergency?
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Constipation
- The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide; George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox; 2007
- ABCScience: Why Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Dehydration?
- Drugs.com: Laxative Natural (psyllium) Alcohol &amp; Food Interactions
- PubMed Health: Hypokalemia