Does increasing fluids really help constipation? What do you think?
There is conflicting evidence regarding the adequate quantities of fluid required for health, let alone for the management of constipation. Inadequate fluid intake is a risk factor for constipation. Older people drink less in an attempt to avoid nocturnal urinary incontinence and are at greater risk of dehydration due to an impaired thirst mechanism, especially those with severe cognitive impairment. Dehydration causes dry hard faeces resulting in a slow bowel transit time. Consequently encouraging patients to increase their fluid consumption is widely recommended in the treatment for constipation based on the assumption that additional fluid leads to an increase in bowel transit time by bulking up faecal matter. Yet there is no clinical evidence that increasing fluids can successfully treat constipationunless dehydration is diagnosed. However, there is a need to increase fluid intake in excessively hot weather, following alcohol consumption and if pyrexia is present.
Gaye Kyle is the chair of the ACA education committee