Constipation : A Modern Plague.
Constipation has become an epidemic in our modern lifestyle. Today laxatives seem to be some of the top drugs people are buying over the counter to help with elimination. The average American has a 96-hour transit time from the mouth to the other end. This means that the average person carries 4 days worth of waste in their colon (Woods, p. 37).
It used to be thought that if someone eliminated once a day, then they were in good
a healthy colon leads to eliminate two or three times daily.
Ideally, we eat a meal, and within hours have a bowel movement, eliminating the previous meal's waste. When the digestive system is healthy, we'll have one or two meals in there, but no more than that.
If you have once a day bowel movement, or if you suffer a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements or difficulty in passage of stools, this article is going to give you an assortment of helpful tips in order to help you regain regularity in the most important system in your body - your digestive system.
Causes of constipation:
- The colon may have weighty layers of impacted fecal matter on its walls as a result of eating processed foods that are either void of fiber or have very little fiber. Therefore, what remains as an opening in the colon for fecal matter to exit is a small opening. As a result the stool usually looks thin, similar to the diameter of a pencil in its width. As the fecal matter continues to accumulate, the channel of elimination in the colon is so narrow that it can not keep up with the necessity of getting the fecal waste matter out of the body daily. Thus, a case of constipation.
- Constipation can be the result of an ongoing infection in the body caused by parasites, bacteria, or yeast. "In a survey performed by Leo Galland, M.D., in his New York City practice, of 100 patients with giardia, 40 percent indicated constipation...as a symptom" (Nichols, pg. 526).(See Para90 for intestinal parasites)
- Nutritional deficiencies can be another cause of constipation especially mineral levels such as those of magnesium and calcium. Inadequate levels of magnesium can lead to constipation (p. 527).
- If one doesn't drink enough water and most of the foods he/she eats are cooked and processed, they lack moisture and the stool becomes dry and difficult to evacuate. Dehydration causes all body tissues and fluids to become thicker. "The mucous lining in the colon changes in consistency, failing to provide a slick lubricant for the movement of feces" (Jensen, p. 30).
- Excessive intake of protein or fat can also cause constipation (Werbach, p. 132).
- A hurried lifestyle sometimes causes individuals to ignore the call to eliminate. Passing gas is nature's symptom that it is time to try to eliminate but most people don't pay attention since they don't feel the need to go.
- Lack of physical activity. Most jobs today require individuals to sit in front of computers for hours leading to a sedentary lifestyle.
- The lack of physical exercise makes weak and flaccid muscle tone incapable of holding up under the demands of poor diets and extra eliminative duty" (Jensen, p. 29).
- Emotional and mental strain produce unfavorable conditions in the digestive and eliminative organs, causing them to become tense and under active (p. 29).
- Certain beverages and foods can cause constipation if eaten regularly. Coffee, tobacco, alcohol, chocolate, and sugar can upset gastric secretions and nerve responses.
- Medications such as antibiotics can irritate the bowel and lead to constipation (p. 30).
Two types of constipation:
Mostly lazy bowel type of constipation.
For lazy bowel, a high-fiber diet with increased water intake is recommended.
Try dietary fiber supplementation for a lazy bowel.
Some individuals have
spastic constipation (narrowing of the colon with small, ribbon-like stools).
Spastic constipation can be caused by an obstruction so make sure to rule out any complications.
A more common cause of spastic constipation is nervousness or anxiety. Therefore, relaxation exercises and positive thoughts are very helpful (calbom, p. 131).
Test your foods transit time:
You can test the transit time from the time you eat your meal to the time it exits your body by consuming beetroot and monitoring the stool for beetroot's red color. A healthy bowel should process a meal within 18 to 24 hours from the time of entrance to the time of exit.
Dr. Jensen wrote that there are 45,000 laxative and cathartic remedies for constipation being manufactured and used by Americans. He recommends not to use laxatives at all. Even when used sparingly and in an emergency, he says that these laxatives should be used with great caution (Jensen).
Laxatives can damage the mechanism of elimination. The way laxatives work is by poisoning or irritating the colon. "The poisoned colon tries to evacuate the offending substance as quickly as possible, and pushes everything out including the compacted feces". Oftentimes, these laxatives find their way to all parts of the body. This situation can contribute to addiction and overuse of these drugs. Dependency upon laxatives will in time, permanently destroy the normal ability of the bowel to eliminate naturally on its own accord (Jensen).
Helpful Diet Tips to Correct Faulty Nutrition:
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water in between meals, but not with meals. If you eat more than 4 servings each of fruits and vegetables a day, you may not need to drink a lot of water. But if you don't eat enough fruits and vegetables, then make sure you consume your 8 glasses of water a day.
- If constipation is extreme, do consider going on a fast with the following simple and yet nutritious diet:
Mangos, papayas, figs, different types of berries, dates, apricots, coconut meat and water.
Choices of the following.
Steamed vegetables. This meal is usually eaten by 5pm. The best vegetables to use are: zucchini up to 2 a day, celery, broccoli, yellow squash and kale. Steam one sweet potato a day and eat with vegetables. Eat one avocado a day. Or make a vegetable soup from the above vegetables (vegetable broth).
Veggie juice mostly from dark green vegetables (parsley, kale, zucchini, celery, bell pepper and cilantro) sweeten with an apple, one carrot, and a small amount of beets. Or eat a big bowl of salad with lots of green vegetables. You can mix some nuts and seeds with your salad.
Papaya and any other fruits throughout the day. If you eat dehydrated fruits, you must hydrate the fruit by soaking it in water for a few hours before eating it.
Another beneficial tea is a cup of peppermint tea. Peppermint
contains menthol which has an antispasmodic effect on the muscles of the digestive tract and
helps dispel gas which is a common problem with constipation (Woods, p. 38).
But to address the constipation, a dietary fiber supplement is usually your best bet.
Avoid constipating foods and drinks, including cheese, fried foods, sweets, white flour, salt, junk food, beef, pasteurized milk, wine, carbonated drinks, and coffee.
Beneficial supplements to augment a normal (bad) diet:
To help with digestion and assimilation:
Herbal Fiberblend is an exelent Dietary Fiber blend.
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Plant based enzymes.
To help with nourishing the body:
Barleylife - contains a wide spectrum of nutrients, including more than a dozen vitamins as well as enzymes, amino acids, and chlorophyll.- a green juice powder.
To reduce oxidative stress:
BarleyLife contains not only vitamins and minerals but naturally occurring protein, enzymes, chlorophyll, antioxidants, and many phytochemicals.
Exercise is a very important factor in maintaining a healthy digestive system. Regular exercise can act as an intestinal stimulant and a stress reducer. During physical activity, the stomach and intestines relax.
Comby, Bruno. (1994). Maximize Immunity . Queensville, Ontario: Marcus Books.
Calbom, Cherie. (1992). Juicing For Life . Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group Inc.
Jensen, Bernard. (1981). Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management
Escondido, CA: Bernard Jensen.
Nichols, Trent. (1999). Optimal Digestion . New York, New York: Avon Books.
Werbach, Melvyn. (Jan. 2006). "Nutritional Influences on Illness". Townsend Letter for Doctors & patients . p. 132.
Woods, Patti. (June 02). "Gut Feeling". Delicious Living . pgs. 37-40.
Yow, Dirk. (August/Sept. 2004). "Colonic chronicles Presents...". Townsend Letter for Doctors and patients . pgs. 116-117.