In multiple sclerosis, constipation is a common symptom

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Brain Function | Monday, June 13, 2016 - 12:00 PM

In multiple sclerosis, constipation is a common symptomIn multiple sclerosis (MS), constipation is a common symptom. A nuisance anyone can experience in their everyday life, constipation is yet another one in the spectrum of uncomfortable symptoms associated with MS. Multiple sclerosis patients often suffer from chronic constipation and may go for days just not feeling “right”.

Constipation is described as having two or less bowel movements a week, feeling as if you have not fully emptied your bowels, straining to have a bowel movement, and having hard or lumpy stool.

Because constipation is often underreported, estimating how many multiple sclerosis patients are plagued by this common problem is hard. Underreporting may occur because patients don’t realize it is an MS symptom, they focus on more dramatic symptoms when speaking to their doctor, and may feel too embarrassed to discuss constipation. With these factors in mind, constipation is estimated to affect 50 to 70 percent of multiple sclerosis patients.

Causes of constipation in multiple sclerosis

In a healthy bowel movement, the stool is constantly moving through the intestines and contains sufficient amount of water. As stool passes through the intestines, it stops for some water absorption to become more solid. When the stool slows down for too long, too much water is absorbed. As a result, the stool becomes too hard to pass through the colon.

Constipation in multiple sclerosis can occur due to a number of factors, including neurological damage – the brain doesn’t transfer the proper signals to indicate you have to pass a bowel movement, limited physical activity, side effects of medication, and insufficient hydration.

Home remedies for managing constipation in multiple sclerosis

Here are some tips you can implement as a means of managing constipation in multiple sclerosis.

  • Eat more fiber: sources of fiber include fruits, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Try bulking agents, which are powdered forms of fiber that you mix with water to help you quickly and easily bulk up on fiber.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take part in regular exercise.
  • Use a stool softener.
  • Try laxatives once in a while – overuse of laxatives can lead to life-long problems.
  • Create a routine where you schedule when you go to the bathroom – this may occur 20 to 30 minutes after each meal.
  • Speak to your doctor about multiple sclerosis medications that may aid in constipation as well.

You should see your doctor about constipation is there is blood in your stool, if you experience unexplained weight loss, or if there is severe pain accompanying your bowel movement.


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Related Reading:

Multiple sclerosis vs. NMO, differences in symptoms, causes, and treatment

Multiple sclerosis risk increases with shift work due to circadian rhythm and sleep pattern disruption

Sources:

https://www.verywell.com/constipation-as-a-symptom-of-multiple-sclerosis-2440795
http://www.healthline.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/remedies-for-constipation#4
https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms/signs-and-symptoms/bowel/managing-constipation

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