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Constipation and MS: it's not just for the holiday's


    MS is hard enough without constipation being a pain in the behind too.
                                                 Photo: Pamela Yelinek

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Constipation is often a hard topic for folks to bring up with their neurologist. After all, who really wants to thrash out their bathroom habits, or lack thereof, with someone they might only see two or three times a year? Odd as it may seem, constipation is a symptom experienced by at least half of the MS population. Simply understood as two or fewer bowel movements a week, hard/lumpy stools, straining, and the feeling of not finishing the job at least a quarter of the time, constipation can be a real pain in the behind.

MSer’s might be able to attribute their constipation to medication side effects, inadequate water consumption, limited movement, or a symptom of their disease due to nerve damage, but is it something they have to live with? Absolutely not. There are a number of prescription medications available but, like MS, everyone is different and what works for some may not work for another. Over the counter fiber powders, bulking agents, stimulants, and teas may be of benefit though it’s always recommended to consult with your doctor first, and check the ingredients to avoid potential allergic reactions. Moreover, there are piles of documentation purporting a healthy diet, adequate water intake, and exercise (even if it’s modified) to increase regularity.

Complimentary therapies such as yoga and massage have been proven to help with the stubborn symptom of constipation. As concluded in the International Journal of Nursing Studies ‘Effects of abdominal massage in management of constipation – A randomized controlled trial’ (Volume 46 Issue 6 June 2009), abdominal massage was not a substitute for laxatives but, was a beneficial compliment in increasing bowel movements and decreasing gastrointestinal symptoms. While abdominal massage is readily available from trained therapists throughout the greater Houston area; self application or another caring person applying the massage, can be just as effective in obtaining results. Notwithstanding it is important to remember to follow the flow of the digestive tract and move in a clockwise direction around the abdomen when performing the massage.

As MSer’s partake in the goodies of holiday fare, travel away from home or stress over encounters with unpleasant people and circumstances, constipation should be the last thing in their thoughts…and bellies.