Constipation in the Elderly
Understanding the Problem
Finding a Solution

By Rick Watson

An uninvited "guest". Unfortunately, constipation in the elderly may seem quite normal for some.

It may show up as:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Cramping
  • Painful elimination


This is the last thing that a person in their golden years needs. Constipation in the elderly is fairly common, but don’t be discouraged. There are some things that may be done to win this battle. Let’s look at some possible solutions.

Overcoming Constipation
in the Elderly

There are many things that may cause constipation, or at least set your body up to be more vulnerable to have this symptom.

Fortunately, there are things senior citizens can do to help the situation.

Wikimedia image, elderly gentlemen

The need for exercise

Seniors tend to get less exercise than when they were younger.

Exercise is one of the keys to having healthy bowels movements and keeping them regular. However, sometimes because of poor health and limited mobility, it is hard to do much about this. Still, efforts to stay active can help with bowel function.

We live in an age of convenience. It is much easier to pop something into the microwave or pick up a fast and convenient meal than to cook from scratch. Although many prepackaged foods may be time savers in the kitchen, they are usually low in fiber and may tend to constipate.

Sugary sweets, rich desserts, eggs and dairy products and high-fat meats can contribute to constipation. Instead, try to include foods in your diet that are low in sugar and salt, and that contain a good amount of fiber.

Dental issues

Research shows that eating a high-fiber diet can help to prevent constipation. However, it can prove to be a real challenge for many seniors to try and eat high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Without a good set of teeth, they are forced to eat softer foods, which may not be so friendly to the bowels. This is where a blender or food processor may come in handy. For instance, a mixture of cabbage and carrots can be turned into finely chopped coleslaw.

The importance of drinking water

Researchers suggest that as we age we tend not to drink sufficient water or other fluids. Keeping hydrated is important to prevent stool from drying out.

When a person is even mildly dehydrated, the colon extracts extra water from the stool to meet bodily needs, leaving stool dry and hard. Seniors need to make an effort to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

What not to take for constipation

When we find ourselves constipated, our natural reaction may be to reach for a laxative or an enema.

While they may be needed occasionally, if we use laxatives and enemas too often, our body will become dependent on them and not remember to function as it should.

Magnesium, the better alternative

A better answer may be magnesium. Magnesium works in 2 ways to fight constipation.

  1. It pulls water into the colon, which helps to moisten stool, making it soft, bulkier and slick.

  2. Magnesium relaxes muscles, countering the muscle tightening action of calcium. This can aid in normal colon function.

Long-term relief

Although products like Milk of Magnesia and Epson Salt use magnesium for constipation relief, they are not recommended for regular use.

There are several reasons why a magnesium supplement may be better for long-term relief for constipation in the elderly.

  1. Most seniors don’t get enough magnesium. Taking a magnesium supplement may help with constipation, plus provide other health benefits.

  2. Using magnesium for constipation is non-habit forming. As a supplement, it is intended for daily use.

  3. A sea mineral supplement that contains magnesium also contains valuable trace minerals.

Conclusion, constipation in the elderly

However you choose to deal with constipation in the elderly, the most important thing to remember is to look for a remedy that helps the body to deal with constipation naturally.

(Return from Constipation in the Elderly to Causes of Constipation)

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