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Colorectal Diseases

Smoking cessation bowel problems

05/31/2006

Question:

I quit smoking four months ago and since that time I have not had one normal day without some type of bowel problems. I started out severely constipated for weeks and finally got to a point where I can go, but every day is different. Some days, it is difficult to go with just a few marble size products and other days I go multiple times within a day and can`t seem to stop going. I eat a very healthy diet with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc and I`ve even added Dannon`s Activa yogurt to my diet. I have noticed though that when I eat yogurt or other dairy products, I have smelly gas and a sour stomach for a few hours afterwards. This problem is really affecting the quality of my life. I was always very regular when I was a smoker. Should I be concerned or is there anything I can do to cure my problem?

Answer:

Nicotine does act as a stimulant of intestinal motility, so the constipation after smoking cessation makes sense. Consider adding a tablespoon of fiber supplement to (like psyllium, konsyl, or citrucel) to your already high-fiber diet. Aim for 30 grams of fiber every day. Also drink 2 quarts of plain water, and do cardiovascular exercise to improve intestinal motility. Take 2 TBSP milk of magnesia every 72 hours if you have not had a BM, and follow with a large glass of water. This will provide enough stimulation to get things going. If these maneuvers are not successful, talk to your gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon about a methodic evaluation of your constipation to pinpoint a more exact cause.

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Response by:

Janice Frederick Rafferty, MD Janice Frederick Rafferty, MD
Professor of Surgery
Chief of Colorectal Surgery Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati