We Know They Do, But How?

  • “aluminum- and calcium-containing antacids
  • anticonvulsants
  • calcium channel blockers
  • diuretics
  • iron supplements
  • narcotic pain medications
  • medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease”

I ask you what do these drugs have in common. Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-constipation-feel-like#takeaway tells us they all may cause constipation.

This is one of those topics we don’t like to talk about, but have probably each experienced at one time or another. There are other causes of constipation, but today, we’ll stick with that caused by drugs. Mind you, we’re not talking about party drugs. Rather, it’s the drugs that are prescribed for you that may cause constipation which I’m writing about.

Well, how do you know if you have constipation? The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253 explains:

  • “Passing fewer than three stools a week
  • Having lumpy or hard stools
  • Straining to have bowel movements
  • Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements
  • Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum
  • Needing help to empty your rectum, such as using your hands to press on your abdomen and using a finger to remove stool from your rectum”

According to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders at https://www.iffgd.org/diet-treatments/medications/medications-that-can-affect-colonic-function.html,

“Constipation can be caused by a variety of medications. These medications affect the nerve and muscle activity in the large intestine (colon) and may also bind intestinal liquid. This may result in slowed colonic action (slow and/or difficult passing of stool).”

Let’s see if we can get more specific information on how constipation works. I went to Medscape at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/184704-overview#a4 and discovered there are quite a few different kinds of constipation:

“The etiology [Gail here. That means the cause of the disease.] of constipation is usually multifactorial, but it can be broadly divided into two main groups …: primary constipation and secondary constipation.

Primary constipation

Primary (idiopathic, functional) constipation can generally be subdivided into the following three types:

Normal-transit constipation (NTC)

Slow-transit constipation (STC)

Pelvic floor dysfunction (ie, pelvic floor dyssynergia)

NTC is the most common subtype of primary constipation. Although the stool passes through the colon at a normal rate, patients find it difficult to evacuate their bowels. Patients in this category sometimes meet the criteria for IBS with constipation (IBS-C). The primary difference between chronic constipation and IBS-C is the prominence of abdominal pain or discomfort in IBS. Patients with NTC usually have a normal physical examination.

STC is characterized by infrequent bowel movements, decreased urgency, or straining to defecate. It occurs more commonly in female patients. Patients with STC have impaired phasic colonic motor activity. They may demonstrate mild abdominal distention or palpable stool in the sigmoid colon.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is characterized by dysfunction of the pelvic floor or anal sphincter. Patients often report prolonged or excessive straining, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, or the use of perineal or vaginal pressure during defecation to allow the passage of stool, or they may report digital evacuation of stool.”

We won’t be dealing with secondary constipation today since that doesn’t include drugs in its etiology.

What does happen in your body during constipation? This is what the Cleveland Clinic at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4059-constipation has to say:

“Constipation happens because your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool/poop), which dries out the stool making it hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body.

To back up a bit, as food normally moves through the digestive tract, nutrients are absorbed. The partially digested food (waste) that remains moves from the small intestine to the large intestine, also called the colon. The colon absorbs water from this waste, which creates a solid matter called stool. If you have constipation, food may move too slowly through the digestive tract. This gives the colon more time – too much time – to absorb water from the waste. The stool becomes dry, hard, and difficult to push out.”

Imagine, drugs to improve your health taxing your health. Luckily, since you need to take the prescribed drugs to alleviate whatever your medical diagnosis is, there are methods to relieve your constipation. Here’s WebMD’s (https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/constipation-relief-tips) advice:

“One way to keep things moving is by getting enough fiber in your diet, which makes stool bulkier and softer so it’s easier to pass. Gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet until you’re getting at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.

Good fiber sources include:

  • Bran and other whole grains found in cereals, breads, and brown rice
  • Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, and asparagus
  • Fresh fruits, or dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes”
  • Beans

While you’re having an issue with constipation, limit foods that are high in fat and low in fiber, like cheese and other dairy products, processed foods, and meat. They can make constipation worse.

And on the subject of diet, water is important for preventing constipation, too. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Also, exercise regularly. Moving your body will keep your bowels moving, too.”

Wait a minute. We’re Chronic Kidney Disease patients. That’s means some of the foods listed above may not be allowed on our renal diets. For instance, dried raisin, apricots, and prunes are too high in potassium for CKD patients. You need to speak with your renal dietitian before changing your diet.

As Benjamin Franklin stated, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Let’s see what we can find on prevention.

  • Increasing your fiber intake: Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, all help improve gut function. If you have bowel sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid high-fructose fruits, such as apples, pears and watermelon, which can cause gas.
  • Getting more exercise: Regular exercise can help keep stool moving through the colon.
  • Drinking more water: Aim for eight glasses daily, and avoid caffeine, as it can be dehydrating.
  • Go when you feel like it: When you feel the urge to go, don’t wait.”

Thank you to Johns Hopkins Medicine at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-causes-and-prevention-tips for this information. Will you look at that? Prevention methods for constipation are almost the same as how to treat constipation. Better get started, folks.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Backed Up

Granted this is weird, but I have wondered for quite a while what – if anything – constipation has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. Maybe my memory is faulty (Hello, brain fog, my old friend), but I don’t remember having this problem before CKD entered my life… or did I?

In my attempt to find out if there is a connection, I hit pay dirt on my first search.

“Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are more likely to develop in individuals with constipation than in those with normal bowel movements, according to a new study published online in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

More severe constipation, defined as using more than one laxative, was associated with increasing risks of CKD and its progression.”

You can read the entire Renal and Urology News article at https://www.renalandurologynews.com/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/constipation-associated-with-ckd-esrd-risk/article/572659/.

Wait a minute. This is not quite as clear as I’d like it to be. For example, what exactly is constipation? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation was of help here:

“Constipation is a condition in which you may have fewer than three bowel movements a week; stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy; stools that are difficult or painful to pass; or a feeling that not all stool has passed. You usually can take steps to prevent or relieve constipation.”

Well then, what’s severe constipation? A new site for me, HealthCCM at https://health.ccm.net/faq/267-acute-constipation defines severe or acute constipation as,

“Acute constipation is usually defined by a slowing of intestinal transit generating a decrease in bowel movements and the appearance of dehydration. The person will have difficulty defecating or may not be able to at all.”

This sounds downright painful, so let’s go back to my original query about how constipation and CKD relate to each other.

But first I want to share this very clear explanation of how constipation happens from Everyday Health at https://www.everydayhealth.com/constipation/guide/.

“The GI tract, which consists of a series of hollow organs stretching from your mouth to your anus, is responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal.

In your lower GI tract, your large intestine, or bowel — which includes your colon and rectum — absorbs water from your digested food, changing it from a liquid to a solid (stool).

Constipation occurs when digested food spends too much time in your colon.

Your colon absorbs too much water, making your stool hard and dry — and difficult for your rectal muscles to push out of your body.”

Keep in mind that diabetes is the number one cause of CKD as you read this. According to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253

“Hormones help balance fluids in your body. Diseases and conditions that upset the balance of hormones may lead to constipation, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
  • Pregnancy
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)”

Many of the sites I perused suggested drinking more water to avoid or correct constipation. But we’re CKD patients; our fluid intake (Well, mine, anyway) is restricted. I’m already drinking my maximum of 64 ounces a day. In the words of Laurel and Hardy’s Hardy, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” It’s possible constipation contributed to my developing CKD and drinking more may help, but with CKD you’re limited to how much you can drink.

Another suggestion I ran into on many sites was increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Great, just great. I’m already at my maximum of three different fruits and three different vegetables – each of different serving sizes, mind you – daily.

Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constipation#Medications has a great deal of information about constipation. Remember though that anyone can edit any Wikipedia article at any time. Be that as it may, this sentence leaped out at me:

“Metabolic and endocrine problems which may lead to constipation include: hypercalcemiahypothyroidismhyperparathyroidismporphyriachronic kidney diseasepan-hypopituitarismdiabetes mellitus, and cystic fibrosis….”

Thank you, MedicineNet for reminding us that iron can cause constipation. How many of us (meaning CKD patients) are on iron tablets due to the anemia that CKD may cause? I realize some patients are even taking injections of synthetic iron to help with red blood production, something the kidneys are charged with and slow down on when they are in decline.

Apparently, another gift of aging can be constipation since your metabolic system slows down. That’s also what makes it so hard to lose weight once you reach a certain weight. I’m getting a lot of information here, but I’m still not clear as to how one may cause the other. Let’s search some more.

I think I just hit something. We already know that diabetes is the number one cause of CKD. Did you remember that high blood pressure is the second most usual cause of CKD? Take a look at this from Health at https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20452199,00.html#inflammatory-bowel-disease-3:

“Constipation can be a side effect of some common drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as calcium channel blockers and diuretics.

Diuretics, for instance, lower blood pressure by increasing urine output, which flushes water from your system. However, water is needed to keep stools soft and get them out of the body.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

It gets even better. The American Association of Kidney Patients at https://aakp.org/dialysis/relieving-constipation/ not only offered more clarification, but offered a list of high fiber foods without going over most of our potassium and phosphorous limits. Fiber intake is considered another way to both avoid and help with constipation.

“Adults need 20-35 grams of fiber daily. However, for dialysis patients who have to limit their fluid intake, this may be too much since it is thought increased dietary fiber may require an increased fluid intake. Also, all patients are different so the amount of fiber needed to relieve constipation varies from person to person.

High Fiber Foods

Bran muffin                 ½ muffin

Brown rice (cooked)   ½ cup

Broccoli*                    ½ cup

Peach                          1 medium

Prunes*                       3

Prunes*                       3

Spaghetti (cooked)      ½ cup

Turnips*                      ¾ cup

(Each serving contains about 150mg potassium, 20-90mg phosphorus and 1 – 5.4 grams of fiber.) (*Items contains 2 or more grams of fiber per serving.)”

I’ve got the connection between constipation and CKD now; do you?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!