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It is certainly not the most social of conversation topics, but constipation is a topic of growing concern for many people. In the fast-paced modern society we live, we tend to fit our bowel movements into our schedules and often ‘hold-on’ till later – this behaviour can lead to lifelong bowel problems. The jury is still out on how often you should have a bowel movement. However, if you are eating a healthy diet with adequate fibre you should expect to use your bowels daily, with one or two soft, fully formed stools that partially float in the water, are not excessively smelly and leave little residue.
What is constipation?
When you consume food, it moves through your digestive tract and ends up in your colon or large intestine. Muscle contractions in your colon push the waste along, with water being absorbed from the waste and making it more solid. If the contractions are slow or sluggish, the waste moves too slowly and too much water is re-absorbed. The faeces become hard and difficult to move, leading to faecal impaction or constipation.
Why constipation happens
There are many reasons for constipation: Processed food and a low fibre diet, Not drinking enough water, Pregnancy, ‘Holding on’ and not going to the toilet when you need to Other health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (commonly caused by stress), poor digestion, candida (caused by yeast infections), intestinal worms or parasites, Some medications, Overuse of laxatives, which may lead to dependence, Age – as you get older you may suffer from reduced intestinal muscle contractions.
Why you should do something about it!
Most healthcare professionals agree that whether mild or severe, constipation is responsible for a large amount of low-level ill health. Besides the general bloated and uncomfortable feeling, constipation can lead to haemorrhoids, varicose veins, anal fissures, diverticulitis, hernia, appendicitis, gall bladder disease, headaches, bad breath and colon polyps.
Getting things moving the natural way
While laxatives are often the first port of call to treat constipation, be aware that overuse of laxatives makes your bowels lazy and can lead to dependence. There are less harmful ways to get things moving. These include: Consuming a high-fibre diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. If necessary, include a fibre supplement such as psyllium in your diet. This will help form soft bulky stools Exercising regularly to keep your digestive system healthy, Drinking at least six 250 ml glasses or two to three litres of water daily. Adding liquid hydrated bentonite (a natural clay) to a glass of water can help to draw toxins from your system, adding polyunsaturated oils in your diet to lubricate the digestive tract, taking Flax
Seed oil capsules are a good way to ensure sufficient consumption of the right oils, taking a herbal laxative based on Cascara. For a more gentle laxative effect, take a Black Walnut supplement, which will also eliminate unwanted microbes and parasites from your colon, not ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement! Ideally, set aside time after breakfast or dinner for an undisturbed toilet visit.
We recommend that you consult your healthcare professional if your constipation is recurrent, gets worse, continues longer than a week, or your stools contain blood. Everyone responds to laxatives differently. Start at the recommended dosage then adjust to get the desired outcome.
This story has been published with the permission of Herbs & Health Lifestyle Magazine.