Constipation is a symptom not a disease. Most people will experience it at some time in their life. Diet is usually to blame. Constipation is the infrequent and difficult passing of hard stools. Depriving your body of exercise, dietary fibre, and water can cause you to pass stools less than three times per week. Constipation also leads to headaches, nausea, “bloated” feelings, abdominal pain, haemorrhoids and anal fissures. It’s like getting an urgent telegram from your body, asking for help but fortunately, there are many easy things you can do about this condition.
“Holding on,” when you need to pass a stool, piles, ‘old age,’ liver problems, diverticulitis, food allergy, candida and stress related bowel tension can all cause constipation. Also painkillers involving combinations of paracetamol and codeine can contribute to constipation.
Lack of dietary fibre is one of the major causes of recurring constipation in adults. With our busy schedules, it can be hard to keep track of the fibre we eat. It can be even harder, sometimes, to make menu selections that include higher amounts of dietary fibre. Without this basic building block, the body has trouble producing waste, which leads to a backup of toxins in the colon.
Many constipation sufferers who do manage to get enough fibre into their systems often suffer from dehydration. Many people confuse hunger pangs with sensations of thirst. An estimated 70 per cent of cases appear to be linked to insufficient fluid intake. Therefore, we can end up feeding ourselves extra food when our bodies really crave fresh water.
When constipation sufferers have been getting sufficient fibre and water into their systems, all signs point to a poor exercise routine as the culprit. Taking 30 minutes of exercise a day can encourage regular bowel movement. The intestines rely on regular movement to help form and pass solid waste through the systems. Without this assistance, the intestines can perform this task on their own, but only in a limited capacity.
Signs and Symptoms
Mild constipation often begins with a lack of signs. When you have gone more than two or three days without passing any stool, or if you only pass small, hard stool during your trip to the bathroom, you may be experiencing mild constipation. Never ignore the condition as reabsorption in the bowel forms toxins that may then cause chronic disease.
Medium constipation may be associated with sharp abdominal pains, along with hard stool that can feel jagged as it passes through your system. People who suffer frequent, moderate constipation may also suffer from haemorrhoids created when hard stools scrape against the intestinal walls.
Chronic constipation produces several easily identifiable symptoms. Along with the total lack of stool, sufferers experience severe headaches and abdominal pain as the body cries out for help expelling waste.
Treatments for Constipation
A balance diet with plenty of natural fibre (20-35gram a day) will go a long way to improving the situation. High fibre foods include beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots and fresh (leave the skin on) and dried fruit, whole grains and bran cereal. Drink 1-2 litres of water a day, preferably away from food. Fats in the form of cheese, meats and ice cream should be avoided. Never ignore the condition as reabsorption in the bowel forms toxins, which may then cause chronic conditions.
A lack of exercise is thought to be the main cause amongst older people and exercise is a simple free treatment for all sufferers. Walking for 30 – 45 minutes a day will benefit all bodily functions.
To treat chronic constipation, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend triphala. This popular remedy is a balanced blend of three Indian herbal fruits: harada, amla, and behada. This formula is unique in that the astringent qualities of the fruits serve to tonify the colon, thereby promoting internal cleansing naturally. When blended with warm water before bedtime, triphala can quickly work to restore balance to the system.
For a stimulating laxative, seek out a herbal tea that contains licorice, ginger, dandelion root and burdock. You can also try 2 teaspoons of Psyllium seeds to a cup of warm water, stand for 5 minutes and stir well before taking, these drinks can be taken up to three times a day.
For less severe cases, eastern medicine practitioners suggest mixing a small amount of ghee (a clarified butter that you can actually make on your own) into a glass of warm milk. The mixture works just as well as store bought laxatives, without undesirable side effects.
Herbal healers also recommend senna for mild or moderate cases of constipation. Though some popular over-the-counter medications contain senna in capsule or tablet form, healers recommend brewing and enjoying a cup of senna leaf tea to unlock the herb’s full effects.
Beneficial herbs include: ginger, licorice, linseed, dandelion, chamomile, burdock and basil.
Constipation can be easily prevented with proper exercise, diet and water. If you feel you cannot get enough dietary fibre through your routine meals, consider an organic fibre supplement. Many dietary fibre supplements come in the form of tasty snack bars, or simple capsules to be taken with water.
A few simple changes to your meals can also reward you with higher amounts of dietary fibre. On your next sandwich, try substituting white bread for whole grain wheat or oat bread. Many bakeries now offer whole grain breads mixed with soy protein to boost your fibre intake significantly. Ask for baby spinach in your sandwiches and salads, instead of iceberg lettuce. Add a cup of whole grain breakfast cereal to your morning ritual, to keep yourself regular throughout the week.
Regular physical activity can also help you stay regular. If you can’t fit a formal workout in during the day, find ways to integrate more active motions into your usual routines. For example, try parking at the far end of the parking lot for a change. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you work outside the home, find a lunch spot that you can walk to, instead of driving to another fast food restaurant.
Though painful and annoying, most cases of constipation can be easily solved by breaking some old habits and replacing them with new ones. Focusing on diet, water and regular exercise will help you stay regular throughout your life.
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