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Living Well with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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A Guide to Constipation Remedies for Ulcerative Colitis

Medically Reviewed By Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C

Although it’s less common than diarrhea, some people with ulcerative colitis (UC) may experience constipation. Remedies can include drinking more water, adding fiber to your diet, and taking laxatives per your doctor’s instructions. UC occurs when inflammation and ulcers develop in the inner lining of your large intestine. It mainly causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and stool urgency, but it can sometimes also cause constipation.

This article discusses medical and natural remedies that may alleviate UC-related constipation.

Dietary adjustments

A person eating a bowl of oatmeal and fruit
Pixel Stories/Stocksy United

Certain dietary changes may help manage UC-related constipation by improving gastrointestinal (GI) function. Always check with your doctor before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Drink more water

Not drinking enough water can contribute Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to UC-related constipation. This is because the body needs water to soften stool and make it easier to pass.

In addition to water, you can also add other fluids to your diet, such as:

  • soup
  • natural fruit juice 
  • sugar-free tea

Increase your fiber intake 

Dietary fiber has many potential benefits for managing constipation related to UC. It can also help with other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A 2022 research review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source lists some of these benefits as follows:

  • maintaining bowel movements by softening the stool 
  • speeding up the transit of food in the GI tract
  • promoting an overall healthy GI tract

Some sources of dietary fiber include:

  • oatmeal
  • mangoes
  • figs
  • berries
  • most fruits with skin, such as pears
  • beans
  • green peas

You can also try fiber supplements after checking with your doctor. Add fiber to your diet slowly and only consume moderate amounts. Rapid or excess intake may cause undesirable side effects, such as gas and bloating.

Learn more about 7 foods that can cause constipation.

Home remedies

Certain at-home remedies can reduce the impact of constipation and other UC symptoms on your quality of life.

Get regular physical activity

Regular physical activity or exercise may improve Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source constipation related to UC and other IBDs.

According to a 2017 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , some potential benefits of physical activity for constipation include:

  • improving the motion of the intestine to help pass stool
  • improving contraction of the abdominal muscles 
  • stimulating the release of important GI hormones

The American Heart Association (AHA) Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source provides the following physical activity recommendations for adults:

  • Practice moderate-intensity aerobic activity for 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. 
  • Add moderate-to-high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. 
  • Reduce your sitting time. 
  • Try to stay active at least 5 hours per week. 
  • Increase the intensity of your activity gradually instead of abruptly.

There are many ways to increase your activity levels. Ask your doctor about activity levels that are safe for you.

Avoid using medications that cause constipation

Some medications can contribute to constipation.

For example, opioid medications can inhibit Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source stomach emptying and reduce muscle contractions in the GI tract. They can also reduce fluid levels in the intestine, leading to stool hardening and constipation.

Other medications may also cause constipation as a side effect, such as antacids Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source .

Try biofeedback 

Biofeedback is a technique that teaches you to control your bodily functions. It uses sensors attached to your body to track these functions and aims to:

  • improve coordination between the muscles that are responsible for passing stool
  • enhance the sensory responsiveness of the anus and rectum

A 2018 randomized controlled trial Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source found that home biofeedback therapy is less expensive and may be just as effective as biofeedback therapy administered in an office.

Talk with your doctor about whether this type of treatment may be right for you.

Learn more about natural and home remedies for constipation.

Medications

Your doctor may recommend constipation medications if dietary and lifestyle changes have not helped. 

Stool softeners 

Stool softeners are medications that make stool easier to pass. They work by increasing the amount of water the stool absorbs. 

Stool softeners may come as a capsule, tablet, liquid, or syrup taken by mouth. Examples include docusate sodium (Colace) and docusate calcium (Surfak).

Osmotic laxatives 

Osmotic laxatives can also soften Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source stool, making it easier to pass. They work by absorbing water into the stool. 

Some osmotic laxatives are available over-the-counter (OTC), while others are prescription only. Common types include lactulose (Duphalac) and macrogol (Movicol).

Talk with your doctor before taking these or any other types of laxatives.

Learn more about when to see a doctor for constipation.

Summary

Some people with ulcerative colitis (UC) may experience constipation. Remedies include exercising, using laxatives, and adding fiber to your diet. Other treatments include biofeedback, stool softeners, and stimulant laxatives.

Talk with your doctor before taking any medications or making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2023 Aug 5
View All Living Well with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Articles
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