You might be able to manage constipation through your diet and exercise. Read more about how.
Changing your diet
Increasing the amount of fibre you eat and drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent or stop constipation.
You can increase your fibre intake by eating:
- porridge or high fibre breakfast cereal, such as All Bran, Weetabix or muesli
- wholemeal or granary breads instead of white bread
- plenty of fruit and vegetables – raw or cooked, with the skin or peel left on
- whole grain rice or pasta instead of white rice or pasta
- dried fruit, seeds, nuts or popcorn
- potatoes in their skins
- beans, pulses and lentils
- cakes or biscuits made with wholemeal flour
Drinking plenty of fluids
Remember to drink plenty of fluids if you are eating a lot of fibre. Fibre draws water into the bowel, so you could get dehydrated if you don't drink enough.
Drinking plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juice and soups helps to soften your stools and make them easier to pass. So drinking between 8 and 10 large glasses of these types of fluids each day can help prevent constipation.
But drinking alcohol or large amounts of drinks that contain caffeine, like coffee and cola, can cause dehydration. Always check with your doctor or nurse about how much you should be drinking, and which fluids are best.
If you find it hard to eat or drink enough
It can be difficult to eat a high fibre diet and drink enough if your cancer or its treatment is causing:
- tiredness (fatigue)
- nutritional problems
- breathing problems
- a high temperature (fever) and infections
- mouth problems
The hospital or community dietitian can help you to plan a diet high in fibre with plenty of fluids. Try to eat your meals at the same time each day. This can help to make your bowel motions more regular.
Regular exercise helps to keep your bowel working normally.
Side effects from your cancer and its treatment can make it difficult to exercise. You might feel that you don’t have the energy for it. But a little exercise is better than none.
A short walk each day may make all the difference to keeping your bowel motions soft and regular. Exercise has also been shown to increase energy levels, so you may gradually feel better and be able to do a little more.
If constipation continues
Ask for help from the people caring for you if your constipation is not getting any better.
Let your doctor or nurse know as soon as you begin to have problems. The earlier you tell them, the quicker they can help to sort it out.