You may be able to reduce your risk of some forms of bowel obstruction by modifying your diet and lifestyle. For example:
To help prevent colorectal cancer, eat a balanced diet low in fat with plenty of vegetables and fruits, don't smoke, and see your doctor for colorectal cancer screening once a year after age 50.
To help prevent hernias, avoid heavy lifting, which increases pressure inside the abdomen and may force a section of intestine to protrude through a vulnerable area of your abdominal wall. If you develop an abnormal lump under the skin of your abdomen, especially near your groin or near a surgical scar, contact your doctor.
There is no proven way to prevent obstruction caused by diverticular disease, but some doctors believe that people with diverticular disease should follow a high-fiber diet and avoid foods that may become lodged in the diverticula, such as seeds and popcorn.
If you have a bowel obstruction, you will be treated in a hospital. A flexible, lubricated nasogastric tube (NG tube) can be inserted through your nose into your stomach to help remove excess gas from your stomach and intestines. You will be given fluids intravenously (through a vein) because you will not be allowed to eat or drink.
Partial small-bowel obstruction often improves within a few days, and the NG tube can be removed if one was used. At that point, you will be given sips of fluid. If you tolerate this, you will be given a full liquid diet for a day or more followed by solid foods that are easy to digest. A complete bowel obstruction often requires surgery to correct or remove the cause of the obstruction (tumor, adhesions, stricture), repair the hernia, or fix the segment of intestine at risk for repeated volvulus. During this surgery, a segment of damaged or strangulated intestine also may be removed.
It is sometimes most practical for your doctor and you to take a "wait and see" approach if you recover from one or two episodes of bowel obstruction without surgery. You may eventually require surgery to correct the cause of the blockage or to prevent future episodes, but not everyone needs surgery.