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Managing Chemo Side Effects: Constipation

High-fiber diet, lots of liquids and activity can relieve the problem


National Institutes of Health

Are you having bowel movements that come less often than normal for you, are painful or are hard to pass?

This is called "constipation."

Let your doctor or nurse know if you have not had a bowel movement in two days or if you have pain in your rectal area.

Take these steps:

Eat such high-fiber foods as:

  • Whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetable.
  • Nuts, seeds and popcorn.

Drink lots of liquids.

  • Most people need to drink at least 8 cups of liquid every day. Water is a good choice. So are fruit and vegetable juices, like prune juice.
  • Warm liquids, like coffee or tea, may help.

Try to be active every day.

  • Walk or ride an exercise bike for 15 to 30 minutes a day.
  • Talk with your doctor to learn about other exercises that can help you.

These foods may help if you are constipated:

Breads and grains

  • Bran muffins.
  • Bran or whole-grain cereals.
  • Brown or wild rice.
  • Cooked, dried peas and beans (pinto, black, red or kidney).
  • Whole-wheat bread.
  • Whole-wheat pasta and tortillas.

Fruits and vegetables

  • Dried fruit, such as apricots, dates, prunes, and raisins.
  • Fresh fruit, such as apples, blueberries, and grapes.
  • Raw or cooked vegetables, such as broccoli, corn, green beans, peas, and spinach.

Snacks

  • Granola.
  • Nuts.
  • Popcorn.
  • Seeds, like sunflower.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse:

  1. What problems should I call you about?
  2. Should I write down each time I have a bowel movement?
  3. How much liquid should I drink each day?
  4. What medicines are OK for me to take?
  5. What exercises can help me?
  6. Can you give me the name of a nutritionist, so I can learn more about foods that might help me?

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