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Increasing dietary fiber and taking over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives are conventional treatments for constipation, but some people also choose to take supplements.
Apart from OTC medications, people can try eating foods high in fiber, such as:
- whole grains
While some vitamins and minerals might help relieve constipation if a person has a deficiency, others can cause it.
In this article, we explore vitamins and supplements for constipation. We take a look at the effects of different vitamins on digestive health.
These children also ate lower amounts of dietary fiber, fruits, and plant foods. Not consuming enough fiber can cause constipation. Fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber, are often high in vitamin C as well.
Doctors do not recommend that people take large doses of vitamin C to help them pass stool, but a daily vitamin C supplement may help.
The participants with intestinal disorders that cause constipation had lower levels of vitamin D. These findings do not suggest that increasing vitamin D will relieve constipation, however, as the low vitamin D levels may be a consequence of chronic constipation.
Some people take vitamin D supplements, especially if they live in northern countries since sunshine is a vital source of vitamin D.
People with a vitamin B-12 deficiency may experience :
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
While taking vitamin B-12 supplements may not help those without a deficiency, correcting the deficiency may relieve symptoms in those who do.
Groups of people that are most at risk of developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency include people with:
- pernicious anemia
- poor absorption of vitamin B12 from food
- poor absorption of vitamin B12 following an operation
- dietary deficiencies
Taking too many magnesium supplements can cause loose stools, diarrhea, nausea, and cramps. Magnesium has an osmotic effect, which means it draws water into the intestine, which is one of the causes of loose stools or diarrhea.
A common laxative that people can buy at the pharmacy is Milk of Magnesia. The main medicinal ingredient is magnesium hydroxide.
While there is little research to suggest that magnesium supplements can treat constipation, of all the supplements listed in this article, it is the most commonly used mineral supplement to address the problem. It is likely a safe option to try, as long as a person sticks to the recommended dose.
Although some vitamins and minerals can help people with constipation, others may cause it or make it worse.
Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and carrying out functions in the muscles, heart, brain, and other body systems.
Calcium is in:
- dairy products
- fish with soft bones, such as canned sardines
- fortified cereals, fruit juice, and soy and rice milk
While it is unlikely that a person would consume too much calcium from food alone, those taking supplements might. Too much calcium can cause constipation.
Some people need to continue taking calcium supplements, however. To reduce the risk of constipation from supplements, doctors recommend taking calcium throughout the day.
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Taking calcium with meals or changing the brand or form of calcium can sometimes help.
Iron is another mineral that can cause digestive issues if a person is taking supplements.
Too much iron can also cause:
- black stool
- abdominal pain
To reduce constipation, people can try taking lower doses at first and slowly increasing their dose if necessary.
A doctor may recommend taking the iron pill with food, although some foods reduce iron absorption.
If a person is having hard or infrequent bowel movements and has tried increasing dietary fiber and taking OTC products, they should speak with their doctor.
The doctor might be able to prescribe stronger laxatives or recommend other treatments.
In some cases, frequent or persistent constipation can be a sign of an underlying condition, so a doctor may ask about a person’s other symptoms.
Anyone who needs to take laxatives regularly to pass stool should let their doctor know. Treating constipation when it is a symptom of another condition can hide dangerous warning signs.
The most common treatments for constipation include dietary changes and OTC laxatives. Vitamins and minerals do not have a major role in treating constipation.
However, some people may experience constipation as a result of a vitamin deficiency, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency. In those situations, a vitamin supplement may help relieve constipation.
Some vitamins and minerals can cause loose stools or diarrhea, including magnesium and vitamin C. Other supplements, such as calcium and iron, can cause constipation.
People should speak with a doctor before starting or stopping a vitamin or mineral supplement.
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