Embarrassing as it may be, we have all suffered from constipation at one time in our life or another. According to the National Health Interview Survey as many as 3 million Americans suffer from frequent if not chronic constipation. While constipation is not recognized as a degenerative disease or serious disorder, people who are constipated often feel bloated, uncomfortable and even sluggish. Constipation by itself is miserable enough, but sufferers often experience painful bowel movements that can become compounded by hemorrhoids that form due to straining.
Understanding ConstipationTo understand constipation, it is important to understand how our digestive system works. When we eat, food is ground up in our stomachs so it can be digested. This 'liquid' food passes into the small intestine where nutrients are extracted. It then moves on to the colon, where water is removed, allowing a stool to form. If too much water is extracted from the stool as it passes through the colon, it can become hard and difficult to pass leaving you constipated.
Why People Get ConstipatedThere are a number of reasons why people get constipated. These include not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough liquids (water), lack of exercise, ignoring the 'urge' to have a bowel movement and plain old stress. Other causes can include having a lazy colon that does not contract properly, causing waste materials to pass through the colon slowly, food allergies that can cause the colon to contract, or mechanical obstructions that inhibit the movement of waste materials. Many prescription drugs and certain neurological disorders can also slow down the movement of waste materials through the colon. Constipation can also be brought on by an abuse of laxatives that over time can damage the nerve cells in the colon and interfere with its ability to contract properly.
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to relieve chronic constipation naturally.
Constipation Prevention and Treatment
Consume a high fiber diet made up of lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If that is not possible, incorporate a dietary fiber supplement such as psyllium hulls, Natures Sunshine's Nature's Three or their Irritable Bowel Fiber into your daily health routine. Dietary fiber holds water and help to keep the stool soft, while added bulk help to move the stool through the colon.
- If other fiber supplements fail in your attempt to become regular, try taking Chitosan (a form of dietary fiber) along with vitamin C. The chitosan binds to fats from the foods we eat making the stool soft and smooth. The vitamin C helps to activate the chitosan in the stomach.
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you are taking supplemental fiber.
- Try eating a few dried prunes or drinking some prune juice. In addition to adding fiber, prunes have a mild laxative effect.
- Avoid sugar and other processed foods.
- Begin a regular exercise program to help promote normal bowel movements.
- If you think allergies are the cause of your constipation, try an elimination diet to help you to identify what may be triggering your body and causing your colon to contract.
Meditate, do yoga, go for a walk. Do things that will allow you to reduce your stress levels and help your body to relax. This can help relax your colon.
- Get a colonic to flush out any old fecal matter that may be trapped within the colon or try a colon cleanse.
- Take a good probiotic such as acidopholis or bifidophilus to help promote a healthy environment within the colon.
Peppermint (3910-9) has a long history of helping relax the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Supplementation with magnesium and large doses of vitamin C, have a mild laxative effect on the body.
- If all else fails, herbs such as casgara segrada, turkey rhubarb or herbal combinations such as Natures Sunshine's LBS II and LB-X can be used to evacuate the colon. While these should be used with caution, they are less aggressive than many commercial laxatives that are available at the supermarket.