How do I Treat Ileus After Surgery?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2019
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An ileus is a temporary condition in which part of the intestine becomes paralyzed and therefore does not function properly. This condition is most common after any type of abdominal surgery, especially surgeries involving the movement of the intestines. There are several ways of treating an ileus after surgery, including dietary and activity changes, as well as medical treatments aimed at increasing hydration.

Medical treatment of an ileus after surgery often begins in the hospital with intravenous therapy. The IV will be used to inject fluids into the body so that dehydration does not occur, complicating the condition even further. If vomiting, another common symptom, is present, a nasogastric tube may be placed to help ease this symptom. This tube is inserted into the nose and passes into the esophagus and then into the stomach. This allows nutrients to be placed into the stomach when a person cannot hold down food or drink independently.

Once released from the hospital, there are still things a person can do to help treat an ileus after a surgical procedue from home. One of the first recommendations is to discontinue the use of medications, such as opiates, which are known to aggravate the condition. Narcotic medications are known to cause constipation as well as other types of bowel discomfort, particularly following surgery.


Dietary modification can often help treat an ileus after surgery. It is typically recommended that the introduction to solid foods be delayed until the condition has healed. Many patients have reported a faster recovery time if they chew gum during the recovery process. This seems to speed up flatulence, leading to the ability to have a bowel movement more quickly.

Medications aimed at promoting bowel activity are frequently recommended for those who have developed an ileus. There are several types of gentle laxatives available for home use by the patient. These include suppositories, tablets, and powders that can be mixed with a variety of liquids. If there is no success with these options, the doctor can prescribe a stronger laxative to encourage the bowel to resume proper functioning.

Using physical activity to treat an ileus after surgery is a bit controversial. While in general mild to moderate exercise is beneficial in encouraging bowel activity after surgery, there are scientific tests that show no proof that this is the case when treating an ileus. However, overall recovery time is often shorter in patients who move around as soon as possible after any type of surgical procedure.


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Post 5

Chewing gum only helps in this case, because it makes your body release digestive enzymes. They didn't specify in this article, but the gum should be chewed intermittently, not all the time, or your body will get used to the enzyme release and start ignoring it. One should chew the kind of gum found in health food stores, with no sugar or synthetic sugar substitutes. Aspartame and the like will only add to the toxic body burden.

Post 4

This type of obstruction is terrible. I've been feeling the effects for a week now and at one point after the ng rube was removed, I was ready to have it put back in. I have had bowel movements for two days ans have been passing gas for one. I still feel bad, like I over-ate. I have a bloated and hard stomach. I am ready to be over this.

Post 3

It sounds like narcotic medications could really contribute to having an ileus after a bowel obstruction surgery. This is unfortunate, because I know a lot of people are prescribed narcotics for pain after having surgery. It seems like it would be hard to choose between being in serious pain and being unable to go to the bathroom.

Hopefully ileus treatments could work for someone who is taking narcotics too.

Post 2

@strawCake - I'm pretty entertained by the idea of chewing gum as an ileus treatment myself. Of course, there are other more conventional treatments discussed in the article too. Dietary modifications and giving fluid by IV sounds pretty standard to me.

However, I think it's interesting that physical activity after surgery is controversial for treating paralytic ileus after surgery. I mean, I know it's probably not a good idea for a person to run a marathon the day after their surgery or something. But I don't see how trying to be moderately active could possible be a bad thing.

Post 1

Having an ileus sounds extremely unpleasant. I imagine having surgery is bad enough without having to deal with weird side effects like your intestines not moving afterwards.

Also, I can't believe chewing gum is actually an ileus treatment. That is just so weird. Who knew gum actually had some kind of a medical use? I also didn't know that gum sped up flatulence, which is something to keep in mind.

A lot of people chew gum to freshen their breath. Wouldn't it be ironic if it was causing them to have gas too?

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