Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. Impeded elimination is usually caused by a bowel disorder rather than a structural problem. Common causes of constipation include:
• Inadequate water intake
• A diet too low in fiber
• Lack of exercise
• Excessive dairy product consumption
• Side effect of medication
• Stress, such as a disruption in the regular diet or routine
Cut the cheese, please!
Depending on the severity of the issue, there are several ways to address the condition of not being able to move solid waste out of the body. The best solution is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes choosing a variety of fresh, high fiber foods, prepared with minimal fat, salt and sugar, as well as sufficient daily quantities of pure water. Avoid foods that contribute to bowel sluggishness, such as cheese, bananas and red meat. Also important is exercise, like a yoga class or trip to the gym, and rigorous daily activities such as gardening or walking briskly. There are even yoga positions such as uttanasana (standing forward bend) and pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose), that can be beneficial.
Herbs, supplements and other natural aids
Effective constipation remedies include changes in dietary habits, laxatives and bowel stimulants, enemas, suppositories, biofeedback training and, in extreme cases, surgery. The best course of action is always to start with the most gentle and least invasive method of treatment. Sometimes, the simple, old-fashioned ways are all you need to get the job done.
Food as medicine
Relief from sluggish elimination could be as easy as adjusting your diet.
Apples are rich in digestive fiber and they contain pectin, which stimulates the bowels.
Beets not only help keep you regular, they’re great for the liver.
Cabbage has been known as a natural laxative for years. It will alleviate digestive track toxins as well. Sauerkraut—fermented cabbage—is good for your digestion because of its healthy probiotics.
Lemon juice is recommended by many Ayurvedic practitioners as a quick and simple remedy for constipation. A warm glass of water with one teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, first thing in the morning, acts as a cleansing agent for the intestines.
Prunes, sometimes called dried plums, are famous for their laxative properties.
Water About 80% of the human body consists of water, and we need a constant supply. Among other things, water helps to soften the stool. If you’re constipated, one of the first things you should do is increase your intake of pure, fresh water to at least eight glasses per day.
Cascara sagrada has a long history of traditional use by Native Americans. Today, it is one of the most common herbal laxatives but should not be used for longer than seven days in a row.
Castor oil is well known as a home remedy for constipation. Some side effects have been reported, so use caution and be sure to purchase a high-quality oil if you do decide to use it.
Epsom salt The main ingredient in epsom salt is the laxative, magnesium sulfate. Look for epsom salt powder, which can be mixed with water and easily dissolved.
Senna is an herbal stimulant that encourages the bowel muscles to move. It’s appropriate for cases of prolonged constipation, when gentler methods don’t seem to work. Please be sure to follow package directions.
Triphala is an herbal formulation that is widely used in Ayurveda. It helps with bowel clening and digestion, and is not habit forming. Try one teaspoon with warm water or simply look for the herb in tablet form.
There are other, more aggressive ways to address the issue of constipation, including at-home irrigation procedures such as enemas and colema boards or colonics performed by a trained hydrotherapist.
Constipation is usually easier to prevent than to treat. Once you find relief from constipation, maintain regularity with adequate exercise, fluid intake and a high fiber diet. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective management may require first determining the cause.
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