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How To Wake Up Bowels After Surgery

Undergoing surgery is a momentous occasion that often requires some time off and recuperation. While many patients confront the problem of reactivating their bowels post-operation, there are steps you can take to get your digestion back on track. Pain medication, anesthesia, and reduced mobility may cause temporary disruption in bowel activity leading to constipation and unease. However, proactively affirming your bowel health during recovery will lead to peace of mind.

In this blog post, we’ll look at different strategies and useful advice to encourage bowel movements after surgery. However, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before applying any of these techniques, in line with your circumstances.

Postoperative ileus is a commonly occurring complication of abdominal surgery. It involves a suspension of gut motility and function, resulting in nausea, vomiting, bloating and abdominal pain. On rare occasions, it can also lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and weight loss.

The etiology of POI remains unclear; however, its assumed cause involves the release of molecules involved in inflammation, disruption in autonomic nervous system functioning and alterations in gastrointestinal movement. Treatment for this condition is supportive treatment coupled with symptom management. In severe cases, medical interventions like nasogastric decompression and total parenteral nutrition may be necessary.

Causes of Postoperative Ileus

  • Postoperative ileus is a condition which results from an impairment or disruption of normal bowel activity following surgery. Various factors can be influential in the onset of this syndrome, such as:

· During a surgical procedure, the intestines may be moved, adjusted, or shifted; this can cause a temporary impediment to peristaltic movements and halt the bowel’s function.

· Anesthesia and certain drugs administered in the course of a surgical procedure, including opioids for pain relief, can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive tract. Slowing down peristalsis, they may trigger ileus development.

· Surgery stimulates an inflammatory reaction in the body, and can interfere with normal intestinal functioning. This is because it causes certain chemicals to be released that disrupt bowel movement.

· Surgery and its accompanying stress response may lead to imbalances in potassium or magnesium levels, which can then interfere with the normal functioning of the intestines.

· Surgical site inflammation or infection has the potential to cause postoperative ileus due to the inflammatory response and activation of the immune system, leading to alterations in bowel motility.

· Postoperative pain can trigger a cascade of events that includes the release of stress hormones and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This in turn may lead to slower intestinal motility, which contributes to ileus.

· Patient-related factors, including advanced age, pre-existing intestinal motility issues and prior abdominal surgeries, can potentially raise the likelihood of postoperative ileus.

It’s worth highlighting that postoperative ileus tends to occur frequently following numerous surgical interventions, particularly those involving the abdomen. Healthcare staff implement a range of strategies to avert and deal with ileus, including early movement, optimized pain management, decreased opioid use, and appropriate hydration and electrolyte regulation.

Treatments for Postoperative Ileus

Following surgery, it is not uncommon for the intestines to become inactive or sluggish. This typical process, known as postoperative ileus, can be very irritating to patients who are longing to return to their regular schedule.

There are several treatments that can help stimulate the bowels and promote bowel movement. These include:

  • Stool softeners offer relief by making stools more pliable and facilitating bowel movements.
  • Laxatives are designed to help soften and bulk up your stool by increasing the water content in your intestine.
  • Suppositories are inserted into the rectum, where they quickly dissolve and prompt a movement in the bowels.

If other treatment methods don’t work, your doctor may advise a less comfortable option like a nasogastric or gastrostomy tube. These tubes are put in through the nose or stomach and act as a conveyor of liquid stool from the body. Though they can be uncomfortable, they usually get patients back on track with their bowel movements.

Diet Tips and Foods to Eat Following Surgery

Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a great way to jumpstart your intestines after surgery. Additionally, it may be necessary to take a stool softener or laxative under the instruction of your surgeon or doctor. Remember to drink lots of fluid, with water being the most helpful, and limit constipatory foods like cheese, bananas, and white rice. If you can do some light activity as soon as possible after surgery this will also help, get things going again. Don’t worry if it takes a while for everything to become regular; just have patience.

Exercises and Activities That Help Stimulate Bowel Function

After surgery, it is normal to encounter a sluggish bowel due to medications, restricted mobility, and psychological stress. To support digestion, it may be beneficial to incorporate exercise and activities into your routine. Examples include:

  • Walking is an effective way to get your body moving and promote digestive health. Start by taking short strolls around the house, or a nearby area. As you become more confident, you can increase the walking distance.
  • Light stretching exercises can strengthen your abdominal, back and leg muscles. Hold each stretch for around 10-30 seconds, and repeat the process throughout the day to encourage proper bowel function.
  • Yoga can be an effective way to manage constipation. Various poses can help relax the body and stimulate digestion, leading to relief from constipation symptoms. However, before beginning any new exercise plan, it is important to consult your doctor or physiotherapist.

If you are experiencing chronic constipation or have not had a bowel movement in 3 days, it is important to consult your doctor as you may need additional treatment.

Natural Remedies to Help Stimulate Bowel Function After Surgery

After surgery, slow or sluggish bowel function is common – a result of anesthesia and pain medications. If you are struggling with post-op constipation, there are some natural solutions available to get things back on track.

In order to encourage intestinal activity, make sure to get your daily fill of fiber. This nutrient adds volume to bowel movements and makes it easier for them to pass. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are good sources of fiber. In addition, staying hydrated is essential – water is an obvious choice but you can also opt for herbal teas or juices.

Psyllium husk is a great remedy for constipation. A soluble fiber, it works to soften stool and make it easier to pass. It can be found at most health food stores in powder form- simply mix a teaspoon into a glass of water and drink it down. Taking a supplement in capsule form is another way to give yourself relief.

If you find that these measures fail to provide relief, you should discuss additional possibilities with your doctor. An array of laxatives is available without a prescription; remember to abide by any recommended instructions from your physician or pharmacist. When an issue is particularly acute, a medical expert may be able to suggest further solutions.

When To Seek Medical Care after Surgery

If you have any of the following symptoms after surgery, you should seek medical care:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Rectal bleeding or black stools
  • Vomiting that is persistent or severe
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dark urine, dry mouth, or dizziness, dehydration can include the production of dark-colored urine, a dry mouth, or feelings of dizziness.


Waking up your bowels after surgery may feel daunting, but with the right approach and understanding, reverting your routine back to normal can be attainable. By following simple steps outlined in this article, you can do so without causing any further trouble or distress. Take it slow to ensure you’re completely content before progressing and have faith that with patience, diligence, and proper attention you’ll soon be back on track.


1. What is the optimal approach for stimulating bowel activity following surgery?

There are a few measures you can take to attempt to get your bowels functioning again after surgery. Going for a stroll may prove helpful, as can eating fiber-rich meals and staying hydrated. If that still doesn’t work, your physician may prescribe stool softeners or laxative medications.

2. Why is it important to wake up your bowels after surgery?

It’s essential to make sure that your bowels are functioning normally following surgery, as constipation can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and even more severe illnesses such as bowel obstruction.

3. What is the typical time it takes for the bowels to become active again following surgery?

It varies from one individual to the next, but it is usually suggested to begin attempting to activate elimination within several days of operation. For some, it might take up to a couple of weeks for all to become active again.

4. Are there any dangers associated with not stirring your bowels after surgery?

If you don’t take measures to resume normal bowel functioning soon after surgery, you’re at risk of constipation and other digestive issues. If left unchecked, this can lead to a very serious bowel obstruction.

5. What should I do if I’m having trouble waking up my bowels after surgery?

If you’re finding it difficult to activate your digestive system, it is advisable to consult with your physician. They may suggest utilizing a stool softener or laxative to help the situation along.

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