Medical Q&As

Constipation - prevention?

My partner was operated on successfully for colon cancer in 1994,and had part of his bowel removed. Fortunately he didnít receive chemotherapy etc. He also had non-malignant skin cancer treated at that time. Over the past months he's had some problem with constipation. His GP advised not using any kind of laxative but to keep to a "balanced diet". I would like to get a diet sheet that would help him with this problem, as I believe this is of prior importance in his particular case. He is 67 years old and has a fairly good appetite.

The most important step for your partner to take is to increase the amount of fiber in his diet. Fiber is the non-digestible residue from fruit or vegetables that is left in the intestine when the various nutrients have been extracted. The fiber works its way through the intestinal tract and eventually reaches the colon where it contributes bulk to the stools. Your partner should increase his consumption of high fiber foods such as beans, whole grains, bran containing cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables. He should also reduce his consumption of low fiber foods such as processed ready prepared meals. Cheese, ice cream and instant mashed potato are also low in fiber. Fruits and vegetables that have edible skins are higher in fiber. Breakfast cereals are a convenient way to get a significant portion of the daily requirement of fiber. Bread made from whole grain flour with added fiber is also an excellent source of fiber. It is possible to obtain all the fiber we need from a high fiber diet without having to take fiber supplements. Drinking more water can also help to prevent constipation as can regular physical exercise. It is also worth noting that medication can cause constipation. The list includes some antacids, iron tablets, painkillers containing codeine, certain antidepressants and calcium supplements.