Constipation in seniors and older people

Constipation can be diagnosed in an older person if the patient is passing a stool infrequently, with difficulty, or if the stool is hard and dry. People over the age of 60 are more likely to suffer from constipation than the general population but treatment is often straightforward.

There are four types of constipation which older people can experience:

“Functional” constipation: characterized by the presence of hard stools, causing pain and difficulty when passing a stool. This is the most frequent condition.

Constipation with pelvic floor dysfunction: muscles can become weaker in older age making it more difficult to pass a stool.

Constipation with slow transit: partial paralysis of the colon can lead to difficulties in internal transit.

Constipation due to various intestinal disorders more common in older people:

irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, adhesions, rupture of a diverticulum, bowel cancer, hernia, volvulus or rectal prolapse.

What are the causes of constipation in seniors?

Difficulty with intestinal transit can be experienced by those over the age of 60 because they are more likely to be taking medications that have constipation as a side effect. Some anti-inflammatory painkillers fall into this category.

Lack of exercise can also cause constipation, a factor that is essential for regular bowel movements. Older people may experience longer periods of inactivity due to bed rest from surgery or injury. Muscles also naturally become weaker in older age, making it is more difficult for the stool to pass through the gut.

Diet also plays an important role as constipation can often be caused by insufficient water and fibre intake.

There are often several factors causing constipation, which is why it is advisable to discuss the condition and symptoms with a medical professional.

Management of constipation in the elderly

Ensure the diet contains plenty of water, and also fruit and vegetables (which contain fibre to assist intestinal transit). It may be necessary to take laxatives alongside these foods as part of the treatment for constipation. Sufferers are advised to consult with a medical professional first to assess any risks.

OptiFibre® works alongside diet to get the bowels working as they should, relieving pain and discomfort. OptiFibre® is made of dietary fibres that act by increasing the frequency of stool and rebalancing the intestinal gut bacteria gradually. Available in a box or as sachets, this food for special medical purposes can be easily incorporated
into meals without distorting their taste or texture.

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