Constipation is a common occurrence after gastric bypass surgery, especially in the first few months after surgery. Since patients can only eat small amounts of food and are advised to eat a diet high in protein, they often have trouble getting enough fiber. This can lead to constipation. Some vitamin supplements can also cause constipation, including many types of iron (carbonyl iron usually doesn’t cause constipation, though, which is why I suggest using that type instead of ferrous sulfate or other ferrous salts). Stool softeners, laxatives, and other medications can be used to relieve constipation, but some people prefer to try some natural remedies first.
- Fish oil or flax seed oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids that help with digestion and may prevent or relieve constipation. Gastric bypass patients malabsorb fats, meaning they don’t absorb all of the fat they consume, and oil is a fat, so we won’t absorb all of the fish oil or flax seed oil that we take. We will absorb some of it, however. Fish oil and flax seed oil supplements can increase the risk of abnormal bleeding, so if you are on blood thinners or if you have been bruising very easily, talk to your doctor before adding these supplements to your diet (if you have been bruising easily, you may have an iron or vitamin K deficiency, so you should ask your doctor to order some blood tests for you).
- Probiotics are “good” bacteria that we need in our intestines. They help with digestion and may prevent or relieve constipation. Yogurts that contain live or active cultures contain probiotics naturally, but you can also purchase probiotic supplements at any drug store.
- Magnesium oxide is a mineral that helps muscle function, including the muscles in the large intestine, which help us move our bowels. I take 500 mg magnesium oxide daily to help prevent constipation, but I suggest talking to your physician or registered dietician about the right dose for you.
- Senna tea can be found in most grocery stores. It’s made from a natural herb that helps relieve constipation. People typically drink it once or twice a day until they get relief.
- Other herbal teas that may help with constipation including red raspberry leaf, dandelion, basil, milk thistle, and fenugreek. You can find these teas in many grocery stores or health food stores, or you can make your own tea with fresh or dried herbs. If you are pregnant or have any medical disorders, you should check with your doctor before using herbal remedies to make sure they are safe for you.
- Herbal remedies available in capsules include dandelion, goldenseal, milk thistle, and slippery elm. These are available at many drug stores and health food stores. If you are pregnant or have any medical disorders, you should check with your doctor before using herbal remedies to make sure they are safe for you. You can also talk with your doctor if you have questions about the proper dose of herbs to use.