108 chapter 5: Taking care of your body
Constipation (difficulty passing stool)
Women with cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury often have constipation or hard
stools that can take several days to come out. This can cause serious problems, such
as when the stool forms a hard ball in the rectum (impaction), or dysreflexia (see
pages 117 to 119).
To prevent constipation:
• drink at least 8 glasses of liquid every day. Water is best, if you have it.
• try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods with fiber—such as whole
grains and cassava (manioc), beans, or other root foods that are high in fiber.
• keep your body moving and exercise as much as possible.
• keep a regular bowel program.
• add a little vegetable oil to your food each day.
• massage your belly.
• eat ripe papaya or mango, or green bananas.
• mix one spoonful of psyllium husks (isabgol, the crushed seeds of the Plantago
ovata plant) with a glass of water, 2 times a day.
If you have not passed stool for 4 days or more, you can take a mild laxative,
such as milk of magnesia. But do not do this if you have any pain in your stomach.
And do not take laxatives often. Inserts that contain glycerin (Dulcolax is one brand)
can also be used to relieve constipation.
Painful swellings around the anus (hemorrhoids)
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus. They often itch, burn, or bleed.
Constipation makes them worse. Women who use wheelchairs,
women who sit often, and women with cerebral palsy are
more likely to have problems with hemorrhoids as they grow
older. If you remove stool with your hand, watch for bleeding.
This is a common sign of hemorrhoids.
What to do if you have hemorrhoids:
• Sit in a basin or pan of cool water to relieve the pain.
• Follow the advice on this page for preventing
• Soak some clean cloth in witch hazel (a liquid plant
medicine) and put it on the painful area.
• Kneel with your buttocks in the air. This can help relieve
Sitting in cool water can make
hemorrhoids less painful.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007