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Are Regular Enemas a Good Solution for Chronic Constipation?

Q. What is the best enema solution? My wife thinks an enema is essential for good health, even though I think this practice is ridiculous.

A. Enemas are used for serious constipation and are not necessary if someone is otherwise healthy. Overuse can lead to complications.

We would advise avoiding soap enemas as they may lead to rectal irritation. If your wife feels an enema is needed on a regular basis she should talk this over with her physician.

Many visitors to this website note that magnesium can be helpful against chronic constipation. Here are just a few stories:

 “I became constipated in my early teens. I never traveled without an enema bag. I tried all kinds of dietary remedies, but still had horribly painful and infrequent bowel movements. I honestly thought I might have a stroke at some point, from straining so hard.

“I was afraid of taking laxatives, for fear of becoming addicted to them. I am now 75 years old and only several years ago began taking a form of magnesium that has finally allowed me to move my bowels on a daily basis. It was recommended to me by the “vitamin lady” at a local health food store. I don’t know if magnesium can be habit forming, but at this point in my life, who cares. I also recommended it to an older neighbor of mine, who says, ‘you saved my life!'” F.C.

“I am a 61 year old woman who has also struggled with constipation from the time I was a child in the 1950’s when my mother would chase me around the house to give me an enema! As a menopausal woman the situation became intractable. I drank the whole gallon of stuff for colonoscopy prep and nothing came out!

“I am intolerant of dried fruit and other common treatments but a nurse practitioner passed on this ‘cure’ to me and it has worked very nicely. I take vitamin B6 with 500 mg of magnesium oxide.” M.M.

“I’m so relieved to see other people know what I’m going through. When I was 13, I had jaw surgery and my mouth was wired shut for months. Afterwards I would only have a bm once or twice a month. I was sick all the time and felt awful.

“When I was in college I tried bisacodyl for the first time. It was amazing that I was able to go to the bathroom. I kept using this laxative and gradually had to increase the dosage to 20-30 pills per day.

“I turn 28 next month and my husband and I want to start trying for a baby in the spring. I knew I had to quit even though I’ve heavily relied on laxatives for almost 8 years. I quit 10 days ago and luckily it only took 2 days before I had a bowel movement. My husband has been so supportive and even bought enemas and suppositories so I could get relief if it came to that.

“I’ve pretty much been able to go to the bathroom every day and it’s been wonderful to not have the cramps that came with laxative abuse. I’m sleeping better now that I’m not running to the bathroom all the time in the night.

“I have been eating really well to help with going to the bathroom (yogurt with flaxseeds, apples & pears, carrots with hummus, big plates of steamed broccoli with butter & vegan cheese, etc). If you’re trying to get off laxatives, don’t wait. If my body can get back to normal and I can go to the bathroom every day (even twice a day some days) then you can too!” M.R.

Kicking a laxative habit or giving up enemas can be challenging once the habit has been in place a long time. But M.R. demonstrated that it is possible. Anyone who would like additional tips for overcoming constipation without enemas or laxatives may find our Guides to Digestive Disorders or Constipation of interest.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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