Digestive Health

Did you know that heartburn affects about 24% of Canadians daily or more frequently, and constipation affects almost everyone at some point in their life? Read on to learn more about these conditions.

Your pharmacist can help

Your pharmacist is a partner in your self-care of gastrointestinal conditions. In addition to being available to answer your questions, your pharmacist can:
  • Assess your problem and determine whether or not you need to see your doctor or if your problem can be resolved with over-the-counter (OTC) products;
  • Determine which OTC medications are appropriate for your condition, considering other medications you may be taking and medical conditions you may have;
  • Advise you on diet and lifestyle changes that you may need to make to reduce the symptoms of your gastrointestinal condition.

What is constipation?

Constipation occurs when you have hard stools that are difficult to pass.
This is a common problem that affects most people from time to time. Women and elderly people are thought to experience constipation more often. Constipation is also associated with pregnancy.
Be aware that not having a daily bowel movement does not necessarily mean you’re constipated. The “normal” number of weekly or daily bowel movements varies from person to person.


What causes constipation?

Constipation has many different causes:
  • Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low-fibre diet
  • Not enough fluid in your diet
  • Changes in your daily routine or lifestyle, particularly travel
  • Long-term use of laxatives
  • Ignoring the urge to “go”
  • Use of certain medications, including:
  • Antacids containing aluminum and calcium
  • Medications for Parkinson’s disease
  • Pain medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Iron supplements
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Seizure medications


Managing constipation

  • Eat more fibre – aim for 26-35 grams daily
  • Sources of fibre include wheat bran, whole-wheat breads and pastas, bran cereal, brown rice, unpeeled fruits and vegetables, and dried fruits such as prunes
  • Increase your fluid intake so that you are drinking about 8 glasses (2 litres) of water a day.
  • Increase your level of physical activity
  • Don’t focus too much on having a bowel movement
  • Avoid liquids containing caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause dehydration
  • If you are taking medication that may be causing constipation, talk with the Pharmacist at Walmart



There are many types of laxatives available over-the-counter that work differently. Remember: most are not meant for long-term use.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives add bulk to the stool to promote bowel movements
  • Lubricant laxatives help soften the stool and ease passage of feces through intestines
  • Hyperosmotic or osmotic laxatives draw water into stool from surrounding body tissue to keep stool soft
  • Stimulant laxatives promote bowel movements by muscle contractions in the intestine
  • Emollients (stool-softeners) help by mixing liquid with the stool to prevent dry hard stools


What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that can occur after eating, at other times of the day or at nighttime. It is often made worse by eating certain foods, and when lying down. The pain you feel is from the stomach acid that backs up into your esophagus. Sometimes you may have the feeling of food or liquid coming up into your throat or mouth, often when bending over or lying down. This may leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Heartburn that occurs regularly may be a symptom of a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.


Managing heartburn

Lifestyle and dietary changes as well as medications, both OTC and prescription, may be helpful in reducing heartburn.
  • Foods that trigger symptoms will vary. Some foods to avoid:
    • Alcohol
    • Fatty foods
    • Caffeine
    • Spicy foods
  • Managing protein size and eating smaller, more frequent meals may also help
  • If you are overweight, losing weight can help
  • Avoid lying down right after eating; stop eating at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Try elevating the head of your bed. Don’t elevate your upper body with pillows
  • Quit smoking, as nicotine can worsen heartburn


Heartburn medications

There are several medications recommended for managing heartburn and they work indifferent ways.
  1. Medications that neutralize acid; these include over-the-counter antacids.
  2. Medications that prevent acid from being made, which include histamine receptor blockers (H2RAs) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Some are available over-the-counter and some by prescription.
It is important to take these medications as directed and to seek medical advice if symptoms persist. Before selecting any medication to manage heartburn symptoms, speak with the Pharmacist at Walmart.

When to see your doctor

If you are over the age of 50 with heartburn or if you experience the following symptoms, see your doctor:
  • Discomfort with chest pain that radiates to the back, neck, jaw, or left shoulder/arm (may include heart attack)
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in your stool or vomit
  • Trouble swallowing or painful swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss or tiredness


Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart is knowledgeable about the symptoms and management of constipation heartburn. Just Ask!

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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