In a healthy body, waste travels through the digestive tract in a
predicable, 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 or inconvenience.
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. Herbal therapies in this chapter work to improve
bile production and flow.
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 pain, 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.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level
of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when
taking any and all supplements.
Prescription for Natural Cures by: James F. Balch, M.D.
& Mark Stengler, N.D.
Super Prescription #1
Flax Seed Oil
- LifeSource Products
Take as directed on the container. Flaxseed oil lubricates
the colon for an easier passage.
Super Prescription # 2
Probiotics / Dophilus
- LifeSource Product
Take a product containing at least 4 billion active
organisms daily. Friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus
acidophilus, Bifidus) help with digestion and elimination.
Super Prescription #3 Cascara sagrada
Take 250 mg or 2.5 ml of tincture two to three times daily
for the relief of acute constipation. This herb should not
be used as a long-term solution for constipation.
Super Prescription #4 Dandelion root (Taraxacum
Take 250 to 500 mg or 2 ml with each meal. Dandelion
stimulates bile flow and improves constipation.
Super Prescription #5
- LifeSource Product Take 1 teaspoon or 5
grams of psyllium husks twice daily or as directed on the
container. Take it with 10 ounces of water. Psyllium acts
as a bulk-forming laxative.
Super Prescription # 6
- LifeSource Product
Take 250 mg two to four times daily for the relief of acute
constipation. Magnesium improves gut motility and retains
water in the colon. Do not use on a long term basis, as it
can lead to malabsorption and electrolyte imbalance.
See All of our Products for Constipation
Difficulty passing stools
Decreased frequency passing stools
Bloated, tender abdomen
Loss of appetite
Poor diet (low fiber, low water intake)
Lack of beneficial intestinal flora
A laxative or enema abuse
Under active thyroid
If you're unaccustomed to a high-fiber diet, move into these
recommendations slowly. A sudden increase in dietary fiber can be quite a
shock to the system and can even cause further digestive problems.
The basic, wholesome diet recommended is an excellent source of 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 this mineral, as well as in fiber, so now you have
another reason to eat kale, broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, and the
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
Hot cereals or warm liquids at breakfast can stimulate contractions of the
lower intestine. Enjoy some hot oatmeal or herbal tea, or do as our
grandmothers did and add lemon juice to a glass of warm water.
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.
Foods 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. When
you're regular again, consume them only in small quantities.
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.
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
If 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 are usually good times. Do not
strain-you'll only create hemorrhoids or varicose veins. Instead,
breathe deeply, using your abdominal muscles, and try to relax.
Bruce Brightman – founder
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