In a healthy body, waste travels through the digestive tract in a predictable, regular cycle, usually taking between six and twenty-four hours to pass. Sometimes, however, waste matter passes through the large intestine too slowly, and the result is called constipation. When the bowels are constipated, it may be difficult or impossible to pass stools; in fact, the urge to pass may be absent altogether. Sometimes constipation has no signs other than the lack of bowel movement, but, usually, it is accompanied by a host of uncomfortable symptoms, ranging from a general feeling of malaise to a distended abdomen and painfully hard stools. A healthy person generally has one to three complete bowel movements daily.
Although constipation is the number-one gastrointestinal disorder in the United States, its unwelcome effects are actually rather easy to avoid. Our Western diet-high in fat and low in fiber and fluids-is the cause of most constipation. When fiber and fluids are lacking, the contracting motions of the large intestine are not stimulated in a regular fashion, and waste is therefore not propelled through the tract. Treatment, then, relies largely on dietary changes. Other factors, such as stress, inactivity, and certain medications, can cause or contribute to constipation as well. Dietary changes are still encouraged in these cases, along with the removal, when possible, of the offending factor. No matter how much or how little discomfort you have, it is always important to address the causes of constipation. When waste matter remains in the colon for a long period of time, recent studies show that bacteria and other harmful matter can be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Stress or suppressed emotions are often overlooked factors with constipation. There is a direct connection between perceived stress levels and gut motility. In addition, people with hectic lifestyles often do not take the time for regular bowel movements. And sometimes children hold back on stool movements for fear of pain.
A poorly functioning digestive system can also be a major contributor to constipation. This is particularly true with deficient bile flow from the liver and the gallbladder. The use of over-the-counter laxatives is a significant problem for many people with constipation. Although these medications relieve constipation, many of them make the bowels lazier over time.
Occasionally, constipation signals a more serious condition. If you have bloody stools, intense abdominal pains, or a cut near your rectum, see your doctor. And since chronic constipation can cause other illnesses, make an appointment if you have constipation that recurs or a single episode that lasts longer than a week. Many people think of constipation as an uncomfortable but essentially harmless condition. In reality, recurring long-term bouts can lead to other problems, some merely distressing and others very serious. Constipation has been linked to the following disorders: arthritis, skin disorders, bad breath, mood disorders, including depression, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, hemorrhoids, malabsorption syndrome and weight gain
SYMPTOMS : Difficulty passing stools, decreased frequency passing stools, bloated, tender abdomen.
CAUSES: Poor diet (low fiber, low water intake), stress, inactivity, medications, intestinal parasites, loss of appetite, malaise, lack of beneficial intestinal flora, laxative or enema abuse, Magnesium deficiency, colitis, under active thyroid.
If unaccustomed to a high-fiber diet, move into these recommendations slowly. A sudden increase of dietary fiber can be quite a shock to the system and can even cause further digestive problems. A basic wholesome diet is recommended to include fiber. Eat lots of whole grains, especially brown rice; raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables; and beans, nuts, and seeds. Chew thoroughly, and don't eat too much at one sitting, even of healthful foods. People with constipation often have a magnesium deficiency. Green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium, as well as in fiber, so now you have another reason to eat kale, broccoli, spinach and brussles sprouts. Prunes and figs are time-honored sources of dietary fiber. You may want to plan on making one of these items a regular part of your breakfast. Flaxseeds are a lesser-known but highly concentrated source of fiber. Don't cook with flaxseeds or subject them to heat; instead, sprinkle them on cereals or salads. Adults should take 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily, along with 10 ounces of water. Children can take 1 to 2 teaspoons. Hot cereals or warm liquids at breakfast can stimulate contractions of the lower intestine. Enjoy some hot oatmeal or herbal tea. Consume fermented products on a regular basis to keep your intestinal flora in balance. Kefir and sauerkraut are good choices, as is live unsweetened yogurt once the acute constipation is relieved. Drink plenty of water to keep stools soft. A glass of clean water every two waking hours is usually an adequate amount.
Food to Avoid
Do not eat foods that are fried or otherwise high in saturated fat. Fat slows travel time through the intestines. Avoid mucus forming foods, which also slow the transit time of waste matter. Foods that encourage mucus production include all dairy products, fried and processed foods, refined flours, and chocolate. Caffeine and alcohol are hard on the digestive system and are dehydrating as well. During an episode of constipation, avoid them entirely.
In severe or recurring cases of constipation, you may wish to undertake a three-day vegetable juice fast.. Juices that are especially supportive of a cleanse for constipation include aloe, cabbage, apple, and green drinks. You still need fiber during a constipation cleanse, so add psyllium husks or flaxseeds to your juices.
CONSTIPATION SUPER REMEDIES
A self-massage of the abdomen feels quite relieving if you're constipated. Better yet, it can induce intestinal contractions. Lie down with your knees bent, and massage your abdomen with the flat of your hand, using pressure that's firm but gentle. Add the stimulating oils listed under Aromatherapy for a more potent effect.
Black pepper and marjoram stimulate and warm the digestive system. Add them to a carrier oil, and use it in an abdominal massage or a bath. If you need to relieve stress, you can experiment with many different oils and rotate your favorites so that you don't build up a tolerance to them You may want to start off with bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose, sandalwood, or ylang ylang. Use them in any preparation you like.
GENERAL STRESS-MANAGEMENT THERAPIES
Yoga and Pilates can be a wise choice for people suffering from constipation.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Select the appropriate remedy, and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed. If you feel tense but try to hide it, and if you often give in to others in hopes of avoiding conflict, use Agrimony. Mimulus is the remedy for people whose fear, shyness, and sensitivity leave them too upset to act. If you are stubborn, with a strong sense of duty that often leads you to ignore your own needs, take Oak.
Exercise helps to stimulate intestinal contractions. You don't need to run a marathon: mild to moderate aerobic exercise should be enough. A brisk walk, taken thirty minutes every morning, is a goal most of us can easily achieve. Crunches done properly are also helpful to strengthen the abdominal muscles. Beware of over-the-counter laxatives. They are extremely harsh and can create an unhealthful dependency. Never repress the urge to defecate. When you hold back, you are actually training your bowels to misbehave. The result is often chronic--even lifelong- constipation. .It is possible to retrain your bowels, if necessary. Sit on the toilet at the same time every day, even if you don't have an urge. Early morning or directly after exercise is usually a good time. Do not strain-you'll only create hemorrhoids or varicose veins. Instead, breathe deeply, using your abdominal muscles, and try to relax.