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Friday, April 18, 2014
This is an inquiry on behalf of my mother and how I can help her with her diet. She is 89 yrs old, will be 90 this year. She goes through bouts of constipation, up to a week or more. The refief is a case of diarrhea, sometimes very explosive. This leaves her very weak for a couple days. Her routine diet is cereal and coffee for breakfast, salad or cottage cheese for lunch, and her supper is usually a protein and a vegetable. Liquids are cranberry juice, apple juice, orange juice, one cup of coffee in am and one cup of tea in pm. She has fruit a few times a week: bananas, oranges, grapes, to name a few. What is she doing wrong if anything?
As I read your question, I wondered if your Mother has seen her primary care provider to discuss the constipation/diarrhea cycle issue. As we get older, bowel function may slow a bit and people may need to increase the fiber (roughage) in the diet through fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc., or to be more mobile or drink more fluids to maintain their usual pattern. However, the two extremes of bowel function your mother is experiencing is not within natural aging changes and suggest she needs to see her primary health provider for assistance.
Some questions to consider that may cause constipation/diarrhea cycle:
- Is constipation a new problem or has it been a problem in the past? Has your Mother's diet changed over the last few months, for example, less roughage, less fluids?
- Does your Mother take laxative(s)? Has she taken them in the past to maintain usual bowel pattern?
- Has she begun a new medication (prescription, over the counter or supplements) that may cause constipation?
- Has anything changed in your mother's lifestyle that could affect bowel habits, such as less mobility, diet changes, over-the-counter meds or supplements?
Bowel patterns clearly can be affected by diet, fluid intake, medications, exercise/mobility and a variety of other causes that need to be assessed by a health care provider.
I recommend your Mother visit her primary care provider to discuss her current bowel situation. Because the aging process can bring changes in bowel habits, it is important to for her to consult her primary care provider for assistance in sorting out lifestyle influences or other conditions that may affect bowel function.
Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati