pieces of gum, nicotine gum

Q. I take meds to control my high blood pressure (verapamil and clonidine), cholesterol (atorvastatin) and pain (tramadol). This causes major constipation, which I suspect is related to the drugs. Are there any natural remedies to help with this problem?

I drink lots of water, but that doesn’t help. I would hate to add another drug to the list to combat constipation caused by the meds.

A. You are batting a thousand for drugs that cause constipation. Every one of your medications can contribute to this problem, so it’s no wonder you are suffering.

The first strategy might be to ask your physician to determine whether there are alternate medications that don’t have constipation as a side effect. That way you can get to the source of the problem.

Non-drug strategies to combat drug-induced constipation include sugarless gum, psyllium (which will also help with cholesterol control), magnesium and “Power Pudding.” This formula involves unprocessed bran, prune juice and applesauce. A tablespoon taken with plenty of water can be helpful.

We are sending you our Guides to Constipation and Digestive Disorders with more details as well as a dynamite Pumpkin-Bran muffin recipe to ease your discomfort.

Join Over 120,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. StoppedUpInCali

    After having several close calls with death at 30 years old, I’ve ended up with severed nerves in my spine a rupture disc in my neck.

    I have been on pain medication for close to ten years. Recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, lupus, and waiting for results for ALS (hereditary).

    Along with my dabillating pain, I can go weeks without any bowl movement 17 days was the longest im on day 17 now.

    Please someone help. I’ve tried laxatives, even enemas. NOTHING works. Help.

    • Terry Graedon

      Ask your doctor about the prescription drug Relistor. It is methylnaltrexone and is designed to reverse the effects of the narcotics in the digestive tract only. Downsides: expense and injection.

    • Helen
      New Zealand

      Hi there,

      Whilst investigating natural ways to heal my colon (I have UC), I came upon a startling theory, which goes against what the medical profession tell you to do – cut out excessive fiber and water – it just bulks up in your colon, swelling it, and binding agents like gluten is the third ‘bulker’.

      Eat more avocado and olive oil as fat is what let’s your stool move down the colon. I enclose details of a 2012 scientific paper for you to read and absorb ‘Stopping or Reducing fibre intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms – World Journal of Gastroenterology

  2. Richard

    I take Fentanyl, Vicodin, Gabapentin, some antidepressants, and other stuff. I have peripheral neuropathy from nerve damage from a broken neck arm. face, and legs. I have some lack of sensation in my back as well as my c-spine (fusion).

    The less I need to rely on anymore Rx the better but the induced constipation is so demoralizing and, of itself, causes increased mood swings. I am a depressive anyway (heredity) as well as my propensity to find other things that do not help my moods at all.

    What can I do now that I am older now and my doctors are concerned about heart and other possible things that can go wrong. I have found out that the newer Rx for CIC causes heart attacks and-and-and. I must find something that does not reduce the efficacy of my current regimen but would aid the fact that I cannot have a bowel movement!!!!!

  3. Jiming11


  4. Meg

    I’ve always been an average “goer,” going about twice a day, every day. However, being 7 weeks pregnant has brought the enchanting side effect of constipation in full force. While I know this isn’t drug-induced, it is hormone-induced. After not “going” for 6 days, I was pretty miserable.

    Because laxatives are a big no-no for mommas-to-be, I scoured the Internet for alternative methods. Most articles explained lifestyle changes to prevent it, but I needed INSTANT relief.

    I finally settled on a shot of olive oil (1 tablespoon) mixed with lemon juice (1 teaspoon). I’ve never been one to make a face after taking a yucky dose of medicine, but this about did me in. I mean, INSTANT gag reflex! I got it all down, but just barely. After a few hours (5 or 6), nothing. I went on to my next attempt: dill pickles. Lucky for me, I’m a huge fan of these, so this was no problem.

    I downed half a jar (about 8-9 Mt. Olive Petite Snack Crunchers) and a few sips of juice. As you can imagine, my stomach was not entirely pleased. However, within 30 minutes, I was on the toilet. RELIEF! I’m not sure if I should place all of my gratitude with the pickles or if it was a mixture of my olive oil concoction, pickles, and time, but I have never been so happy to run for the toilet in all of my life. Best of luck!

  5. Gloria M.

    After back surgery and several drugs, I was severely constipated. Visiting nurse told me to take any hot liquid, I mixed some prune juice with 2/3 c hot water in the morning and it was a fruity drink, not bad.
    Used miralax also.

  6. JH

    I had this problem for years and now eat Activia yogurt for breakfast EVERY morning, PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!!!!

  7. lsm

    I was given Tramadol for my sciatica two years ago and it gave me constipation.

  8. Geraldine K

    I use Vicodin twice daily and it causes constipation; this adds to my usual problem. I use psylium (about one tablespoon) at breakfast and Fiber One for “dessert” with fruit in the evening. Drink lots of fluids, too.

  9. ds

    I agree w. Peoples Pharmacy. Try to get to source/cause of initial diagnoses that required RXs– to see if patient can take fewer or different RXs (that are causing constipation). Beets & Beet juice effectively lowered my sudden increase in blood pressure (High BP caused by Pain). Perhaps under Doctor supervision patient could attempt eating/drinking Beets/Beet juice. If it lowers BP then perhaps Doctor will lower dosage of BP Meds. Pain can increase Blood Pressure. Monitor Blood Pressure to see if you have more pain when Blood Pressure goes up. If so, then perhaps use a different regimen for Pain. (EX: TENS=Electrical Stimulation Unit. Now are cheaply easily available w. Doctor RX. Perhaps a different Pain RX, etc.) Patient did not indicate cause of Pain. Different causes suggest different Pain relief. Under Doctor supervision, monitor, experiment, document. Good luck determining causes of patient’s initial diagnoses & then reactions differing from RXs. And do know that different bodies react differently to various constipation cures.

  10. mb

    After seven years of pain so bad that it put me on disability, my thyroid was tested. My cholesterol was high, and the lab report said that if thyroid function was not normal, that should be addressed before cholesterol. This was a huge shock to me, especially when I read that muscle pain and joint pain could be a result of thyroid problems. So, I would say that if you haven’t had your thyroid checked, you may wish to do that. If the thyroid is causing those problems, you may not need those constipating medications. Just a thought

  11. G.L.T. & P.A.T

    My wife and I were not experiencing any problem with our bowels, but my younger brother told us about “equate” Fiber Therapy at WAL-MART. He suggested taking a teaspoon each morning with water (even though the directions say 3 times daily)! We experienced instant improvement in the consistency and amount of our stool.

  12. Gabriele

    I am usually quite regular (within an hour of eating breakfast every day) but when I had to take nsaids for a fractured rib a friend counseled me to be prepared to deal with constipation.
    He wasn’t kidding… I hadn’t responded quickly enough and more body discomfort wasn’t needed. I had also been taking calcium for pain but just calcium (I used to take dolomite for its balance but had just run out). I had taken some magnesium tabs one time in error and I know what effect that had had… so I took a magnesium pill with a meal and it worked first time… every time.
    Since magnesium is needed for other purposes by the body it’s a double plus.
    I know the value of fiber and especially prunes, etc., but since I also have to watch adding extra sugars to my diet I don’t like to make it a daily extra.

  13. edna

    yes, prunes, fiber, lots of fiber. fruit, and protein helps too!

  14. pp

    The “power pudding” worked for my husband in 2 hours! Then he found out that prune juice in the am and dried prunes at bedtime did the job.–also reducing dairy in the diet.

  15. Helen M

    I also take medications which cause constipation, including the tramadol mentioned previously. Recently I discovered that magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed by the body and, as it travels thru, draws moisture to itself, helping to soften stool and easing constipation. Glucophage, which I took before I lost a kidney to cancer, was terrific for me. They are using it now for pre-diabetes, which is epidemic in today’s society that has forgotten what real food and cooking from scratch is. To avoid digestive upset, it is best to start taking it after a meal, slowly move dose times thru the meal, until you are able to take it before eating. I really miss it.

  16. ds

    I too have had Prescription Drug induced constipation for 6 years. Tried all home remedies suggested: more water, fiber, etc. But through Kaiser Gastro I discovered problem was that colon stool was NOT RETAINING WATER. Extra Fiber made worse. Recently learned this from Gastroenterologist when was discussing upcoming Colonoscopy. She recommended MIRALAX — not only for week prior to Colonoscopy Prep. But for afterwards as well. MIRALAX IS NOT THE HOME REMEDY REQUESTED in this article. But MIRALAX has been like a miracle !!! Immediate & daily stool of soft consistency & appropriate shape. Much relief !! I experience No side effects. I feel terrific. Normal is so good. BUT IF PEOPLES PHARMACY knows reason not to take MIRALAX please do inform. I DO NOT HAVE DIABETES, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. ALL LABS ARE NORMAL EXCEPT FOR LIPIDS. I had been previously experienced prescription RX STATINS caused SEVERE muscle pain. (NO FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART PROBLEMS. CRP TEST for Inflammation WAS NORMAL.) Then when Ibuprophen, Celebrex, etc did not relieve pain I was prescribed Opioid RX for Muscle pain. Later experienced Tendon, Nerve & Muscle Pain & Non Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy — caused by reckless, needlessly prescribed Antibiotics FQs: Avelox, Levaquin & Cipro. (Which messed up gut/lower digestive nerves & muscles as well. Hope this helps. But if PEOPLES PHARMACY Advice against use of Miralax to keep stool to retain water please advise. In meanwhile OTC MIRALAX has been a sure relief.

  17. Diane

    The constipation solution for taking perscription drugs is interesting except I can’t have gluten. Is there a substitute?

  18. DGH

    Just crank up the amount of daily Metamucil that you ingest (with a lot of water) until you achieve the correct balance. I take some similar medications and require two tablespoons daily of the Metamucil which is seriously more than my Gastroenterologist recommends. However, I seem to require that much. It is side-effect free and it fixes the problem nicely for me.

  19. steve

    Try Miralax. Even though you may consider it a “drug”, it is non-habit forming and works amazingly well, and is certainly better than suffering from constipation. I has a similar problem caused by drugs I was taking, tried many “natural” remedies (with no luck) and finally tried Miralax after reading hundreds of reviews along the lines of “Miralax saved me.” It was a godsend for me (I would not recommend any other OTC remedy).

  20. EH

    I don’t know about drug-induced constipation, but I find regular magnesium supplements helpful for chronic constipation. High fiber intake makes things much worse for me. Lots of water doesn’t help. Prunes and rhubarb do nothing. One or two large meals a day instead of small meals and snacks is a good strategy. More veggies, meat, beans, and pasta than bread and cookies.

  21. R.N.

    Have you tried exercise? Especially yoga. Might help with everything. Best wishes..

  22. LPW

    I too had medicine constipating me. A salad for lunch with a teaspoonful of Flax seed solved my problem.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.