A bowel regimen is a set of medications to help people avoid or relieve constipation. It may involve medications, laxatives, and lifestyle changes.

A person with constipation may find it difficult or impossible to pass a bowel movement.

It can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Acute constipation will usually get better with self-care, but chronic can lead to complications, such as swollen veins or torn skin in the anus.

People who take certain medications, such as painkillers or chemotherapy, or who have just had an operation can be at a high risk of constipation. Doctors may recommend a bowel regimen to these individuals.

Read on to learn more about bowel regimens for constipation.

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A bowel regimen is a schedule of medicines that help keep a person’s bowel movements regular. Doctors may sometimes recommend a bowel regimen or bowel routine for people with a high risk of constipation, such as those:

Doctors may also call a bowel regimen a bowel protocol. They will use it to prevent or relieve constipation in people with a high risk of constipation complications.

The exact medications, doses, and treatment duration will depend on the person and their condition. Only healthcare professionals can prescribe a bowel regimen.

Medications in a bowel regimen may include:

  • senna
  • bisacodyl
  • sodium phosphate
  • glycerin
  • docusate sodium
  • polyethylene glycol
  • lactulose
  • magnesium citrate
  • milk of magnesia
  • mineral oil

Sometimes, healthcare professionals may recommend laxatives for immediate constipation relief. Laxatives are a type of medication that helps a person move their bowels.

Examples of laxatives available over the counter include the following:

  • fiber supplements, such as Citrucel, FiberCon, or Metamucil
  • stool softeners, such as Colace or Docusate
  • osmotic agents, such as milk of magnesia or Miralax
  • lubricants, such as mineral oil

If someone has severe constipation or if other treatments do not work, doctors may recommend stimulant laxatives. Examples include Correctol and Dulcolax.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say lifestyle changes can treat most cases of constipation. It recommends that adults eat between 22 and 34 grams (g) of fiber daily and drink plenty of water. This can make stools softer and easier to pass.

Regular exercise can also help relieve the symptoms of constipation.

Bowel training is another way to help make movements more regular. It involves:

  • trying to have a bowel movement at the same time every day
  • giving themselves enough time to have a bowel movement
  • going to the bathroom as soon as they feel they need to
  • trying to relax their muscles when having a bowel movement
  • putting their feet up on a footstool when having a bowel movement

Constipation is common, and people can usually treat it themselves at home.

Individuals with constipation can speak with a doctor if:

  • it does not go away with self-care
  • they have a family history of colon or rectal cancer
  • they have bleeding from their rectum
  • they have blood in their stool
  • they have constant pain in their stomach or lower back
  • they are also unable to pass gas
  • they are also vomiting
  • they also have a fever
  • they have also lost weight without trying

People can usually treat acute constipation at home, but chronic constipation can be dangerous.

Some individuals, such as those on chemotherapy or recovering from surgery, are at a high risk of chronic constipation. Doctors may prescribe these people a regimen of drugs to prevent or ease constipation. They may call this a bowel regimen or bowel protocol.

Anyone whose constipation does not go away with self-care or who has a family history of colon or rectal cancer can consult a doctor.