Opioids provide pain relief for people with many conditions, including later-stage cancer. However, these drugs can also have adverse effects, including constipation.
People use opioids to manage severe pain. Opioid-induced constipation (OIC) can cause further discomfort, which can affect a person’s quality of life.
However, treatment is often available through natural means or in the form of over-the-counter or prescription medication.
Read on to learn more about the link between opioids and constipation.How do opioids cause constipation?
Opioids are a medication that are useful for treating severe pain, especially during the later stages of cancer.
They contain substances such as morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and methadone.
Some brand names of these drugs include:KadianAvinzaOxyContinPercodanDemerolVicodinPercocetLomotil
Opioids bind to specific proteins in the body called opioid receptors. These are present in the brain, spinal cord, and gastrointestinal tract.
By binding to these receptors, opioids block the brain’s ability to perceive pain.
However, opioids also depress, or slow down, the central nervous system.
The central nervous system is responsible for the pain response, but it also controls the body’s movements, including the involuntary movements that make digestion possible.
For this reason, opioid use can result in constipation.Symptoms
Common physical symptoms of opioid-induced constipation (OIC) include:dry, hard stoolsdifficulty defecating, which can result in straining, forcing, and paina constant feeling of needing to use the bathroombloating, distention, or bulging in the abdomenabdominal tendernessnausea and vomitingtiredness and lethargyappetite lossdepressionTreatment
There are many ways to ease constipation that results from opioid use.Home remedies
Some natural ways to alleviate constipation include:drinking more fluidconsuming more fibergetting some or more exercise, if possibletaking time to use the bathroom without feeling hurriedMedications
Over-the-counter and prescription medications can also help.
As constipation is a common side effect of opioid use, a doctor may prescribe medication to prevent it when they prescribe the opioid. This can prevent the problem from developing.
Options include:osmotic laxatives, which soften the stool by increasing the amount of water in the intestinesemollients or lubricants, which soften and lubricate the stoolstimulant cathartics, which promote movement in the intestinesprostaglandins or prokinetic drugs, which increase the bulk and movement of the stool by changing how the intestines absorb water and electrolytesmedications that block the effects of opioids on the bowel and help ease constipationHerbal remedies
Some natural ingredients may also relieve opioid-induced constipation.
Senna, for example, is available in teas, remedies, and pharmaceutical preparations. However, doctors usually
Anyone who is using opioid medication for pain relief should be aware that constipation is a common side effect.
Drinking plenty of water, eating high-fiber foods, and keeping active, where possible, can help reduce the impact.
If these are not enough, a doctor will be able to recommend some treatment options.
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