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Older Adults and Constipation

The most common digestive complaint experienced by older adults is the difficulty of passing stools and the pain that is often associated with it. Constipation in older adults is an increasing problem that can be difficult to prevent or treat. Constipation afflicts all ages but is tricky to deal with when older adults are involved.

Older adults most commonly complain of pain when passing stools or hold back and refuse to go to the bathroom. We then may feel the need to give them an enema or a strong laxative. They can spend long periods of time on the toilet increasing the likelihood for hemorrhoids to develop.

Why does constipation occur?
Often a lifelong avoidance of fiber rich foods can lead to the development of constipation and hemorrhoids. Other reasons can include physiological functions, insufficient fluid intake, physical inactivity, psychological factors, and medications. When constipation and hemorrhoids are severe enough one can often strain on the bowl. Too much straining can lead to hemorrhoid bleeding.

How can constipation be “treated”?
A high fiber diet in addition to adequate fluid intake tends to prevent and counteract constipation and hemorrhoids.
Older adults are most likely to experience constipation than any other age group because of a prolonged fiber deficient diet. Fiber acts to soften stools, provide bulk and to regulate the colon. The daily adequate intake for fiber is 30 grams a day for older men and 21 grams a day for older women. Dietary fiber is the primary way to prevent and treat constipation in older adults.

High Fiber Foods include: Fruits such as: apples, bananas, berries, oranges, nectarines, peaches, pears, mangoes, and tangerines. Vegetables such as: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green beans, green peppers, onions, peas, potatoes with skin, snow peas, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and zucchini. Starches such as: whole grain breads, bran muffins, whole wheat crackers and crisp breads, whole grain or bran cereals, oatmeal, oat bran, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice.
In addition to fiber, water and other decaffeinated beverages need to be consumed on a regular basis. We recommend 8 cups of fluids should be consumed daily. Adding water to the diet helps to ensure softer stools that are easier to pass and eliminates the discomfort and pain associated with constipation and hemorrhoids.

When high fiber foods cannot be consumed the American Dietetic Association recommends the use of fiber supplements. These include natural fiber concentrated powders like Fiber 7™, Fiber Supreme™, CVF™, Clear 2 Go™, which can be obtained from ND Labs Inc at 888-2-ND-Labs or www.ndlabs.com. 1 Tablespoon of ND Labs Fibers provides 7 grams of dietary fiber made from a balanced blend of fruits and vegetables. The fibers can be added to juice or used in cooking or baking. For those who do not like powders, ND Labs Inc also has special high fiber cookies, such as Chips To Go™ which contain 5 grams of dietary fiber in each large 1 oz cookie.

For information on our Fiber Product line and other ND Labs products, please contact: 516-692-4900.

By: Edna Lam, Nutritionist