OK, nobody wants to talk about constipation. It’s uncomfortable and can be rather alarming if it continues long enough. Constipation occurs when your body does not pass waste quickly enough and the waste material becomes dry and hard. Once it’s in that state, it is more difficult to pass, not to mention painful. People who have a bowel movement fewer than three times a week are considered constipated. There are many causes for constipation including poor diet with not enough fiber, dehydration, some medications and medical conditions, lack of physical activity, or life changes such as pregnancy or aging.
Many people turn to over-the-counter laxatives to remedy constipation, and while they work, they probably aren’t your best bet. Stimulant laxatives irritate the bowel and cause it to contract, hopefully pushing out fecal matter. Stimulant laxatives may contain bisacodyl, phenolphthalein or castor oil and are marketed under the names Dulcolax, Fleet, Alophen, Correctol and Carter's Little Pills. Saline cathartics include Epsom salt, magnesium hydroxide and magnesium citrate (milk of magnesia). They are OK for occasional use, but can stay in the system. Stool softeners such as mineral oil, dioctyl sodium, sulfossinate and others are simply not good for your body.
So, if not OTC remedies, then what?
If you need to relieve constipation and prevent it from happening again, there are more natural ways to do it that are much easier on your body. Here are some things to try:
- Start drinking water. While drinking plenty of water will not cure constipation, it is one of those essential elements that are needed for your body to function correctly. Water is water, not soda or coffee. You need water.
- Eat foods that are rich in fiber. If you are constipated, start eating raw fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, apricots, figs, prunes, grapes, mangoes, soybeans, walnuts and watercress. Fresh organic fruit juices are highly recommended as well. You can also eat breads and cereal that are whole grain (flaxseed is very helpful). Add some wheat germ to your morning cereal. Fiber grabs waste that is hanging around in your colon and draws it out of your body with it.
- Adding psyllium husks to your diet is also very helpful. Psyllium fiber sticks to the walls of the colon and gently causes the bowel to contract, helping things move along.
- Move around. Regular exercise can help get things moving along, and it’s good for you anyway.
Everyone experiences constipation once in a while. With some simple and healthy steps, you can relieve constipation and prevent it in the future. A healthy, fiber-rich diet is the key. If you are dealing with certain medical issues or taking medications that may be causing constipation, eat a diet with lots of fiber and talk to your doctor to make sure you are staying healthy otherwise.