Constipation After Gastric Sleeve [Why Can’t I Poop?]

Constipation doesn't happen to everyone after weight loss surgery, but with a staggering 33% decrease in frequency of bowel movements in one study, it's worth talking about. Fortunately, constipation is a weight loss surgery side effect that is simple to get – and stay – ahead of.

dog sitting on toilet reading newspaper

Though it is normal to be constipated after either a gastric sleeve or gastric bypass procedure, it is more likely that you'll experience the opposite effect when you get bypass.

Though some individuals report experiencing constipation after both surgeries, diarrhea is common with bypass. “The more of the stomach that has been removed or bypassed, the more likely you would be to experience diarrhea and loose stools” according to Jeff, from Bariatric Surgery Source.

Causes of Constipation After Weight Loss Surgery

Lack of physical activity is a leading cause in constipation after any surgery, and bariatric surgeries are not exempt from this.

Even though it may be uncomfortable, your doctor may advise you to get up and walk every hour to prevent gas pains. Another benefit of getting up to walk every hour is that you are burning calories – yes, even if you're hobbling, calories are burning.

Other causes for constipation may include:

  • lack of food intake
  • pain medications (narcotics)
  • not enough water
  • iron supplements
  • anti-depressants
  • not enough fiber in your diet

While on a liquid diet, you may not feel the urge to empty your bowels, and that's okay. Listen to your body. However, if your stools are hard or difficult to pass, or you're pooping less than twice per week, you may be constipated.

How long does constipation last after gastric bypass?

The length constipation lasts after weight loss surgery varies greatly from person to person, and usually subside within a few months.

“Usually, issues with constipation subside within about 90 days of the bariatric procedure.” – Flowers Bariatric

You may be wondering how to deal with constipation after gastric sleeve surgery, and you're not alone! Getting up and moving, drinking lots of water, and eating foods high in fiber can help prevent constipation in most patients.

How to Prevent Constipation After Weight Loss Surgery

There are several ways to prevent constipation after weight loss surgery – and remember, prevention is the best treatment!

Water/fluid intake: Staying hydrated is vital to preventing constipation! 

Healthier food choices: Fruits and vegetables are your new BFFs.

Fiber supplement: Metamucil

graph showing caffeine helps digestion

According to some studies, coffee promotes the stimulation of digestion.

Soft stool softener: Avoid laxatives if possible; they can be habit-forming and they're just not a fun time for anyone's stomach… much less one that just went through surgery.

Probiotics: I swear by probiotics, and since getting c.diff, I will always take mine… I never again want to experience that hell. Whew!

Exercise, walk, move!! You got this surgery to make a big change in your life. That starts with eating right, staying hydrated, and getting your butt up to move, move, move!

Your doctor will tell you how soon after surgery you can exercise, but until then, walking is fine. Add a few minutes to your time every chance you get. Before you know it, you'll be up to 30 minutes or more – which just so happens to be the recommended amount of daily exercise to get started with.

How to Relieve Constipation After Weight Loss Surgery

Treating constipation isn't nearly as easy – or as painless – as preventing it, so be sure to do the above as much as possible.

constipation after surgery: person sitting on toilet

Unfortunately, some of us (*raises hand*) are prone to constipation even before surgery, so it's good to have these constipation remedies at the ready after your surgery.

What to take for constipation after gastric sleeve?

If you experience constipation after your gastric sleeve operation, consult your doctor. These are some of the remedies that have worked for me:

  • Milk of Magnesia
  • Magnesium Citrate
  • Dulcolax
  • Warm prune juice (it works!)

Miralax (I don't recommend Miralax for these reasons)

I found this awesome advice in a weight loss surgery group I'm in. She was living off of laxatives and switched to this routine and is now regular every single day!

“I am 10 weeks post op and I started this regimen about 2.5 weeks ago and since then I have not had the need to Miralax. Prior to this I got so bad within 48 hours I took 4 Dulcolax, 2 cup falls of Miralax, and magnesium. I finally went but even then I did not empty. I know then what I needed was gut support from more natural remedies.

  • B complex – 1 a day in the morning
  • green dink – 1 a day in the morning
  • Calcium – double dose in the evening, can get this at Wal-Mart
  • Multivitamin – 2 times a day
  • probiotics – 2 times a day to start, then less as needed

What helps constipation after gastric sleeve?

Here is a video that gives 7 tips for constipation from a bariatric surgeon.

Unconventional Constipation Remedies

Completely desperate? Sugar-free candies will make you poop. Not saying it's the healthiest way of doing things – or the most fun (those stomach cramps are BRUTAL) – but it works. Why? Because of the high level of sugar alcohols.

constipated colon illustration

I was on a diet once (you know, one of many LOL) and thought that sugar-free meant I could eat alllllllllll the chocolate I wanted. I ate a bag of sugar-free mini Reese's while at work one day and let me tell you, I spent the next two days home praying to the porcelain gods. I never touched sugar-free candy again.

Constipation after surgery is normal. Learning your new body and bowel habits can take some time, but remember it's all part of the journey!

Tuck and Sleeve Why Can't I Poop: Constipation After Gastric Sleeve

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