No Bowel Movement After Surgery

By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
No bowel movement after surgery

Constipation is a common problem after surgery, especially surgery which involves repairing a hernia or removing a gall bladder.

Although not everyone who undergoes surgery struggles with constipation in the aftermath, it is still one of the most common post-surgery symptoms. 

4 Causes of Constipation After Surgery

Medications given after surgery

Painkillers, also called NSAIDs, are prescribed after surgery to help manage post-operative pain. Although, these medications are usually needed, they come with some side effects.

Multiple doses of these medications, especially when taken for more than a day or two, tend to sedate the bowel. A sedated bowel is incapable of normal peristalsis, the wavelike contractions that move stool along.

When stool stays too long in the colon, constipation may ensue.

Anesthesia during surgery

When given during surgery, anesthesia not just numbs the muscles but also affects the bowels. It paralyzes the muscles in the intestines, all but halting the movement of stool through the colon.

The result is a backup of feces. As this stool stays extra time in the colon, extra moisture is extracted, resulting in stool that is dry, hard and impacted.

A lack of movement after surgery

Following major surgery, most patients are assigned to bed rest. This helps them to recover and heal more quickly.

The problem is, physical activity is not just good for losing weight and staying fit, but it also helps to maintain healthy bowel movements. An absence of physical activity can affect bowel function and contribute to constipation. 

Post-operative dietary restrictions

Patients are place on a reduced intake of fluids and solids before surgery, and after surgery they are placed on a special diet designed not to upset their stomach.

A reduction in fluid intake and minimizing of solid foods can reduce stool transit time, resulting in stools that are dry and hard. 

7 Ways to Prevent Having No Bowel Movement After Surgery

Consume some fiber

A good way to do this is to: 

  • Eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables.
  • Replace white breads with whole grain breads
  • Eat bran cereals or oatmeal

These foods are easily digested and provide a good amount of fiber that helps to prevent constipation after surgery.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough fluids is important to ensure that you remain properly hydrated, which can help to improve bowel function.

Dehydration is a major cause of constipation.

Take a magnesium supplement

A magnesium supplement is a great way to provide natural relief for constipation after surgery and any other time. Magnesium is a natural osmotic laxative that draws water into the colon, softening stool and propelling it through and out the colon.

Unlike many remedies, most people may benefit from taking a daily magnesium supplement, since most Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet.

A sea mineral magnesium supplement high in magnesium can be especially beneficial, as it also contains a host of needed trace minerals

Green tea

Not only is it loaded with antioxidants, green tea is also a gentle, natural remedy for cleansing the colon and relieving constipation.

Orange juice

Orange juice is a great post-operative food that most doctors recommend. It is rich in nutrients and fiber. Not only can it help promote a faster recovery,  but it is also great for constipation relief. 

Sunflower seeds and sesame seeds

Grind equal quantities of sunflower seeds and sesame seeds and mix the grounded powder, then take one tablespoon of this mixture each day. This combination is a great formula for regularity.


Here’s another great food to keep the bowels moving.

Using a coffee grinder, grind up a tablespoon or two of flaxseed. You can then mix it into water or sprinkle it on your food. For most patients, this spells wonderful relief from constipation.

Prescription Medications to Treat Constipation After Surgery

Your doctor may give you a prescription to help you when you have no bowel movement after surgery. Here is a list of the most common.

Lubiprostone (Amitiza)

This works by drawing water into the intestines, making stool soft and easy to pass.

It increases the secretion of chloride ions, which then draws water and sodium ions in through the lumen of the colon.


Linaclotide works by stimulating the release of fluids in the intestines, softening stool and promoting bowel movements.


It is effective for treating short term constipation. One of the side effects of Misoprostol is diarrhea.


Mainly used for weight loss, Orlistat can help in relieving post operative constipation. It works by stimulating intestinal contractions.


Mainly used to treat symptoms of gout, Colchicine has been known to loosen stools and relieve constipation. Studies are still being done to confirm its benefits for treating constipation after surgery.

Conclusion, no bowel movement after surgery

It is normal for a person’s bowel activity to be negatively affected after surgery. However, by taking certain precautions, constipation may be able to be lessened or totally prevented.

(Return from No Bowel Movement After Surgery to Causes of Constipation)

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