If you can’t go then act now – GPs warn constipation is no laughing matter

GPs across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are urging people to take steps to avoid getting constipation, a significant cause of emergency hospital admissions in the county.

Over half of over 60 year olds admitted as emergencies to hospital with stomach and intestine-related problems are constipated.

It’s something that can be embarrassing and people often don’t want to discuss it. But in a majority of cases it is relatively easy to avoid.

Leading GP Dr Steve Fawcett said: “Constipation isn’t a laughing matter. It leads to a surprising number of hospital admissions and people need to know the symptoms and how they can avoid becoming constipated.”

Now an information campaign is being launched across the county advising people of the best way to avoid the condition. It will focus on GP surgeries and residential homes.

You are normally considered to be constipated if you have less than three bowel movements a week and your poo is difficult to push out and possibly hard or lumpy. Some people with constipation have a stomach ache or feel bloated or sick.

Dr Fawcett added: “Anyone of any age can be constipated but we see most hospital admissions in those patients who are over 60. The best advice to avoid constipation will also help your general health – eat and drink well and take some regular exercise.

“Common causes are not drinking enough fluids and being less active. Changing your diet, stress and anxiety can also be a factor, as can some medicines.”

The best advice to follow is:

  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluid – about eight cups a day. This can include fluid in foods such as stews, yoghurt or even custard
  • Increase the fibre in your diet – fruit and veg, wholemeal bread and porridge are good sources
  • Take some daily exercise – even a walk can help
  • Try and be regular about when you go – and don’t put it off when you get the urge

Dr Fawcett said: “We estimate that if people follow this advice it could avoid several hundred hospital admissions a year across Staffordshire and that will really help the NHS. It will also prevent pain, discomfort and embarrassment.”

“If you are concerned you are already constipated then your local pharmacist can help. They can offer discreet and confidential advice and a range of effective over-the-counter remedies. If they think you need to see a GP that is the advice they will give.”

Information is available online from NHS Choices or search “NHS constipation”. NHS 111 can also offer free advice.

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