Fact checkedExpert's opinion

We believe information about products and services that could benefit people should be made available to consumers to help them make informed decisions about their health care. Therefore, we try to provide accurate and reliable information by working with different fact-checkers to review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. A team of qualified and experienced fact-checkers rigorously reviewed our content before publishing it on our website. At EHproject, we rely on the most current and reputable sources cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact-checked after it has been edited and before publication.

Bowel Obstruction Self Care: 5 Tips & Instructions 2024


Reviewed by Maya Frankfurt, PhD
bowel obstruction self care
You can make lifestyle adjustments to prevent bowel obstruction. Photo: Shutterstock

Each article is created without any external influence. When you use our provided links to buy products, we receive a commission as an affiliate. To understand how we generate revenue, please read our advertising disclaimer.

Bowel obstruction is a condition where the flow of digested food and waste through the intestines becomes blocked. This can occur for a number of reasons, including the presence of scar tissue, tumors, or twisted intestines.

Bowel blockage can cause severe pain, bloating, vomiting, and constipation. While immediate medical care is necessary in cases of complete blockages or worsening symptoms, you can use some self care measures to manage symptoms and prevent future occurrences.

Bowel Obstruction Self Care

Optimize your bowel obstruction self care by doing the following:

  • Taking medications as directed by your doctor.
  • Utilizing a heating pad to relieve pain.
  • Increasing your water intake.
  • Adjusting your diet to reduce fiber and ease digestion.
  • Avoiding heavy exercise.
  • Following your doctor’s instructions for incision-site cleaning.

These self-care measures can help prevent complications and further obstructions. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you experience fever, worsening symptoms, or do not have a bowel movement for an extended period.

Bowel Obstruction Self Care

bowel obstruction self care
You should seek medical attention if your condition worsens. Photo: Shutterstock

If you have experienced an intestinal obstruction, you should take steps at home to continue treating your condition.[1]

If you have received medical treatment for an obstruction and need to prevent further blockages, you can learn several tips to ease your healing process. However, you should always follow the directions of your healthcare provider.

Take Medicines As Prescribed 

If your doctor has prescribed medications to manage your bowel obstruction, it is crucial to take them as directed. These medications may include pain relievers, stool softeners, or medications to reduce inflammation.[2]

It is important to follow the recommended dosage and schedule to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment. If you experience any side effects or have concerns about your medications, consult your healthcare provider.

Use A Heating Pad For Pain Relief 

A heating pad can provide minor relief for abdominal pain associated with an intestinal blockage. Apply a heating pad to the area on your abdomen where you feel the most discomfort. The warmth can help relax the muscles, relieve mild cramps, improve blood flow, promote healing,[3] and reduce pain.

However, be cautious not to use excessive heat or leave the heating pad on for too long, as it can cause burns. It is best to limit heating pad use to 15-20 minutes at a time and follow the instructions provided with the device.

Make A Few Dietary Changes 

Modifying your diet[4] can be beneficial in managing intestinal obstruction. Consuming easily digestible foods that are less likely to cause blockages is essential. Avoid foods that cause digestive upset, inflammation, gas, and bloating.

If you have wondered if gas can cause back pain or abdominal pain? The answer is yes! So instead of wondering, see why am I so gassy? Simply learn to avoid foods that exacerbate this issue.

You should also avoid foods high in fiber, such as certain vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Take care to eat these foods in moderation. A higher fiber intake can increase the size of your bowel movements, making it difficult for the stool to pass through partially obstructed areas.

Some foods high in fiber[5] include:

  • Spinach.
  • Potatoes.
  • Broccoli.
  • Beans.
  • Nuts/seeds.
  • Apples.
  • Bananas.
  • Peaches.
  • Quinoa.
  • Whole-wheat pasta. 
  • Whole-grain bread. 
  • Brown rice. 
  • Oatmeal.

Additionally, drinking plenty of water is essential to maintain hydration and soften the stool. Take small sips of clear liquids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Increasing your water intake is also effective when assessing how to detox your body.

Your doctor might even recommend a liquid diet to assist in digestion. If you are unsure which foods to include or avoid, consult your healthcare professional for guidance.

Limit Exercise 

While regular exercise is generally beneficial for overall health, limiting physical activity when dealing with intestinal obstruction is essential. This is particularly true if you had surgery to treat a bowel obstruction.

Strenuous exercise[6] can put additional strain on the intestines, increase inflammation, and worsen your symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort. Opt for gentle exercises such as walking or light stretching to keep your body active and help avoid constipation without causing further discomfort.

Listen to your body and avoid any movements that increase pain. If you are unsure which exercises are safe for you, consult your healthcare provider for guidance.

Take Care Of Your Incision 

If you have undergone surgery for bowel blockage, proper incision site care is crucial for a smooth recovery. Follow instructions regarding wound care. Your doctor will guide you on properly cleaning the incision site and changing your dressings. Be sure to keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection.

As mentioned above, you should avoid strenuous activities or exercises that may strain the incision site and follow your doctor’s restrictions on lifting heavy objects.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you notice potential signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or drainage from the incision site.

How To Prevent Bowel Obstruction?

Preventing further bowel blockage requires a combination of lifestyle changes and awareness of potential risk factors. See these tips to help reduce the risk of bowel obstruction:

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet low in high-fiber fruit, grains, and vegetables to avoid large or firm bowel movements that could have trouble passing through the intestinal tract. Avoid foods that are difficult to digest or cause inflammation.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to keep your stool soft and prevent dehydration. 
  • Exercise lightly: Engage in light physical activity to promote healthy digestion and prevent constipation. However, be mindful of the intensity of exercise and follow your doctor’s recommendations. 
  • Manage chronic conditions: Chronic conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease, should be monitored closely by your healthcare provider to manage your condition effectively.
  • Avoid overeating: Practice portion control and avoid overeating. Large meals strain your digestive system and increase the risk of bowel obstruction. Opt for multiple small meals throughout the day.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to any changes in your bowel movements, worse belly pain, or other symptoms. If you experience persistent or worsening symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.

When To Seek Medical Attention Again

Self-care measures can help manage mild symptoms and prevent further obstructions, but it is crucial to seek immediate medical care in the following situations:

  • Complete blockage: If you cannot pass stool or have not had a bowel movement for an extended period, it may indicate a complete blockage. Complete blockages require immediate medical intervention.
  • Worsening symptoms: If your symptoms worsen despite self-care measures, such as experiencing increasing belly pain, vomiting, or signs of dehydration, seek medical attention promptly.
  • Fever and infection: If you develop a fever or notice signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge from an incision site, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Remember, your doctor is the best resource for determining the appropriate course of action based on your individual circumstances.


Bowel obstructions can be challenging to manage and require a lengthy recovery process. Thankfully, with proper self-care and preventive measures, you can alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of future obstructions. 

Follow the tips provided in this article, take medications as prescribed, make dietary changes, and seek medical attention when necessary. Remember to listen to your body and prioritize your well-being. By taking proactive steps, you can improve your quality of life and minimize the impact of bowel obstruction on your daily activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of bowel obstruction naturally?

While self-care measures such as adjusting your diet and increasing your water intake can help manage mild symptoms of bowel obstruction, it is important to note that complete bowel obstruction requires medical intervention. If you suspect a bowel obstruction or your symptoms worsen, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to prevent complications.

Can a bowel obstruction go away by itself?

No. In most cases, bowel obstructions do not resolve on their own and require medical intervention. If you suspect a bowel obstruction, it is important to seek immediate medical attention to prevent complications and ensure proper treatment.

Does drinking lots of water help with bowel obstruction?

Yes. Drinking an appropriate amount of water is important for maintaining hydration, softening your stool, and promoting regular bowel movements. However, if you suspect a bowel obstruction, it is crucial to seek medical attention rather than relying solely on increased water intake.

What not to eat after a bowel obstruction?

After a bowel obstruction, avoiding foods that are difficult to digest or known to cause gas, inflammation, or bloating is advisable. You should also avoid high-fiber foods that can increase the size of your stool and create difficulty passing through inflamed intestines. It is best to consult your doctor for personalized dietary recommendations based on your specific condition and needs.

+ 6 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Catena, F., Belinda De Simone, Catena, F., Salomone Di Saverio, Massimo Sartelli and Luca Ansaloni (2019). Bowel obstruction: a narrative review for all physicians. World Journal of Emergency Surgery, [online] 14(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s13017-019-0240-7.
  2. Tradounsky, G. (2012). Palliation of gastrointestinal obstruction. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, [online] 58(6), pp.648–52, e317-21. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3374686/.
  3. Nagashima, Y., Michihito Igaki, Suzuki, A., Tsuchiya, S., Yamazaki, Y., Hishinuma, M., Oh-ishi, S. and Murakami, M. (2011). Application of a Heat- and Steam-Generating Sheet Increases Peripheral Blood Flow and Induces Parasympathetic Predominance. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, [online] 2011, pp.1–13. doi:https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/965095.
  4. and, D. (2023). Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/intestinal-pseudo-obstruction/eating-diet-nutrition.
  5. Medlineplus.gov. (2015). High-fiber foods: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000193.htm.
  6. Erick and Roberto Carlos Burini (2009). The impact of physical exercise on the gastrointestinal tract. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, [online] 12(5), pp.533–538. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/mco.0b013e32832e6776.


Marina is a freelance writer and graphic designer with over ten years of experience in writing and management. She has a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy. See More