Although opioids are effective pain relievers, they can do a number on your health and overall body systems. One of the most negatively affected body systems is your gastric system. What’s more, long-term use or addiction to opiates can paralyze your gut and force stomach contents to sit undigested. What you’re eventually left with is chronic constipation (CC).
What is Chronic Constipation?
CC is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week and difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer.
Opioid-induced constipation can be much more than uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, this condition can cause serious harm to your health. The following complications can occur, all as a result of straining:
- Swollen veins in the anus (hemorrhoids)
- Torn skin in the anus (anal fissure)
- Stool that can’t be expelled (fecal impaction)
- Intestine that protrudes from the anus (rectal prolapse)
What Can You Do?
Fortunately, there are several treatments to combat opioid-induced constipation, ranging from natural solutions to diet changes and supplements.
Interestingly, a diet high in fiber is not recommended.
“Fiber doesn’t relieve chronic constipation, according to the American College of Gastroenterology Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Task Force,” says Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Fiber Menace.
“All legitimate clinical trials demonstrated no ‘improvement in stool frequency or consistency when compared with placebo.’ How could it, if it caused it in the first place?”
New Medicinal Option
After years of research and an opiate addiction that has reached epidemic status, the Food and Drug Administration finally approved a new drug for opioid-induced constipation last September. The medication is called Movantik and is the first of its kind.
“Supportive care products such as Movantik can lessen the constipating side effects of opioids,” said Dr. Julie Beitz, director of the Office of Drug Evaluation III in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Take Proactive Healthy Steps
Instead of ignoring the problem, leaning to deal with it or putting off the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, be proactive with your health. The following suggestions are just a few of the steps you can take to get your bowels moving regularly once opiates are no longer in the picture:
- Exercise: Exercising your body is a great way to relieve constipation caused by opiate use. The movement stimulates lymphatic activity and gets things moving within the intestinal tract.
- Cleansing Herbs: Triphala and Slippery Elm are recommended, but there’s no need to become an herb expert. Just grab some detox tea from a health food store.
- Probiotics: You’ll need to do a little research beforehand, since most probiotics supplements are created differently. The active cultures contained within probiotics make your gut healthy and your bowels moving. Just be sure to use these supplements as directed and with the appropriate foods.
- Vegetable Juicing: Fresh veggies are full of nutrients that help keep your bowels functioning at an optimal level. Remember, however, we’re talking about freshly processed vegetable juice; not V8 or anything that’s been sitting on your grocer’s shelves for months! The involved juicing process used for commercial products removes a lot of beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
- Enemas: Though enemas aren’t talked about very much today, they are still a fantastic at-home constipation reliever. The process has been around since Biblical times, but most people favor over-the-counter anti-constipation drugs.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of drug abuse.
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