Don’t Poo-Poo Poop!

Eating habits often change during breast cancer treatment. You may also drink fewer liquids and be less active because you feel weak or are in pain. Any and all of these changes can cause constipation. Constipation is when you are having fewer bowel movements than is normal for you. Your stools may also become hard and dry making it difficult or painful to poop.

In addition there are certain breast cancer treatments that are known to cause constipation including certain chemotherapy drugs and hormone therapies such as Faslodex and Fareston (toremifene). A number of pain medications can also increase the incidence of constipation.

Managing constipation

If your bowel movements are becoming harder to pass, if you are getting stomach cramps and pain, suffering with bloating or have no bowel movements for three days you need to speak to your supervising doctor or oncologist about medications such as Movicol for immediate relief.

After you have solved your initial symptoms you may want to implement some lifestyle changes to reduce your dependency on the medication.


Exercise, such as walking, massages your tummy from the inside! Exercise helps to stimulate your digestion and elimination systems.

Drink more fluids

Unless your doctor has advised against it you should be drinking about 8 to 12 glasses of fluid each day including: water, prune juice, and warm fluids in the morning such as herbal tea or hot lemonade. Drink coffee in moderation and try to avoid fizzy drinks. Be sure to eat high-fibre foods at breakfast with a nice hot drink.

Eat fresh fruit and vegetables

Fresh fruit and veggies should be the main component of your diet. Besides being a source of fibre (roughage), these foods contain the Antioxidant Vitamins (vitamins E, C and A). Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers in the body. They mop up the toxic free-radicals that are thought to play a part in cancer, heart disease, aging and so on.

Phenomenal Fibre

Fibre increases stool bulk, making the stool softer and decreasing the time it takes to pass through. Fibre is quite difficult to digest so, as it passes through our system, it kind of polishes us from the inside! We should each eat about 30 grams of fibre per day. In South Africa, rural people tend to eat more fibre and easily reach their 30 grams per day. Westernised people tend to eat half of this or even less.

Fibre improves the quality of your bowel habits (prevents constipation) and decreases the tendency to obesity as it fills you up so you do not crave more harmful foods. Certain fibre, particularly oat bran, tends to lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar.

There are two types of fibre: water-soluble fibre such as in oats, legumes, etc and water insoluble fibre such as whole-wheat, other grains, fruit, vegetables, etc. Good sources of fibre include fibre rich cereals, brown bread (particularly the ‘health breads’, which are filled with roughage) and fresh vegetables and fruit.

Fibre helps prevent many illnesses including: constipation; arterial diseases such as heart disease, stroke, gangrene, etc.; colon cancer; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes; obesity and diverticulosis coli (benign colon disease).

One of the best ways to boost intake, if you are struggling to eat enough fibre, is to supplement your daily fibre intake with a high quality packaged fibre such as Fybogel. Just 3 to 6 grams of Fybogel per day (1 to 2 sachets) will meet your daily fibre requirements. Please remember that, when you resume your correct eating pattern, you can decrease the number of sachets consumed per day.

Written by Dr Carol-Ann Benn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *