Waste travels through the digestive tract in a predictable and regular cycle, usually taking between 6 and 24 hours to pass. The normal cycle is between 1-3 bowel movements per day.
When waste passes through the large intestine too slowly, this is called constipation. When the bowels are constipated it is difficult or impossible to pass stools. In some people, they do not even have the urge to pass.
Symptoms can be just the inability to have a bowel movement or it can be accompanied by a tender, bloated stomach or painfully hard stools.
Causes of Constipation
Foods that cause constipation are commonly found in the United States. This is because of a diet that is high in fat and low in fiber and fluids. When fiber and fluids are lacking, the contracting motions of the large intestine are not stimulated in a regular fashion and waste is not sent through the tract.
Medications and inactivity are causes of constipation. Stress and emotional problems are directly linked to irregularity in bowel movments.
A poorly functioning digestive system can also be a major contributor to constipation. Overuse of laxatives is a significant problem because it causes the bowels to become lazy.
A hectic lifestyle is an increasing problem related to constipation. People are rarely taking the time for regular bowel movements because they have so much going on in their lives.
Liquids that contain caffeine including coffee, cola drinks and alcohol have a dehydrating effect which can also cause it.
The two most important changes to be made for prevention and constipation treatment are diet and lifestyle.
Eat lots of whole grains, especially brown rice, raw or slightly cooked fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Chew slowly and don’t eat too much at one sitting of anything.
Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and brussels sprouts also help if there is a magnesium deficiency. Prunes and figs should be made a regular part of your diet since they are excellent sources of fiber.
Hot cereals or warm liquids, such as oatmeal or herbal tea, at breakfast can stimulate contractions of the lower intestine. Drink plenty of water to keep stools soft.
Liquids, such as water and fruit juices, add fluid to the colon and bulk to the stools making bowel movements softer and easier to pass.
Supplements are also considered a good treatment. Flaxseed oil lubricates the colon for an easier passage of waste. Milk thistle improves liver function and bile flow.
Dandelion root stimulates bile flow and improves bowel movements. Magnesium improves gut motility and retains water in the colon. Do not use magnesium long term. Aloe vera juice improves bowel movements.
Relieving constipation is a serious problem in adults. It can lead to headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, hemorrhoids, hernias, insomnia, varicose veins and weight gain.
Make sure you take regular breaks for bowel movements as part of your overall constipation treatment.
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