The American College of Surgeons describes a hernia as a condition that occurs when internal tissue bulges through muscular openings. Among the options for treating a hernia is surgery. Those who undergo hernia surgery may be at risk for the development of constipation, often as a result of narcotic pain medication use. Making smart dietary choices and including physical activity into your daily routine can provide relief from constipation after hernia surgery.
Drink plenty of water. According to UW Health, people who have undergone hernia surgery should drink at least 6 to 8 cups -- or 48 to 64 ounces -- of water each day to prevent and treat constipation. Those who live in warm climates or engage in strenuous physical activity require even greater amounts of water, says the American College of Sports Medicine. Talk with your health care provider to pinpoint exactly how much water you need each day to treat constipation after hernia surgery.
Eat foods that contain high amounts of dietary fiber. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains -- including pasta, bread and cereal. Fiber absorbs water in the gastrointestinal tract and aids in defecation. For best results when it comes to the treatment of constipation after the surgery, aim for four servings each of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day. While any type of produce is better than none when it comes to the treatment of constipation, fresh fruits and vegetables generally contain high water content, making them even more effective in the management of this condition.
Increase physical activity. In addition to its numerous benefits in the treatment and management of chronic health conditions, physical activity can provide relief for those who suffer from constipation after invasive procedures. The American College of Sports Medicine encourages those who have undergone this type of surgery to start with just five minutes of aerobic exercise each day and increase activity duration as exercise tolerance increases. Walking, biking, swimming and hiking are all helpful forms of aerobic exercise that can be effective in the treatment of post-operative constipation.
Consider stool softeners. Colace is a prescription stool softener that can be effective for those who suffer from constipation as a result of narcotic pain killers -- such as those prescribed after hernia surgery. Those who prefer to avoid prescription stool softeners may fare well with over-the-counter alternatives. Be sure to talk with your physician to find out which product would be best to keep constipation in check.
Supplemental fiber products can add bulk to stool and ease constipation. Prune juice, a natural laxative, and milk of magnesia, an over-the-counter laxative, can also be effective to alleviate constipation after hernia surgery.
Add fiber-containing foods and supplemental fiber slowly to avoid cramping and bloating.
- ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology; Marcia Nelms, et al.
- Surgical Associates at Virginia Hospital Center: Inguinal Hernia Repair
- Cleveland Clinic: Improving Your Health With Fiber
Kathryn Vera holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, as well as licensure as a Registered Dietitian. Currently, she works as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation, where she provides care to patients living with chronic heart disease.