Do you have constipation?
April 24th, 2012 by Lyne Quesnel, ND
Constipation, a very unpleasant and sometimes painful situation that is defined by slow transit, associated with dehydrated stools that are difficult to expel.
Our needs vary from one person to another. While for some people it is normal to have a bowel movement 3 times a day, for others, 3 times a week may be sufficient. But one way or another, the longer the stools stay in the intestines, the harder they will get and become more difficult to expel.
Symptoms of constipation:
- Infrequent bowel movements (more than 3 days for an adult, 4 for children);
- Difficult and painful defecation;
- Hard, compact stools;
- Bloating and gas.
- Anal fissures;
- Bowel obstruction;
- Abusive use of de laxatives…
Persons at risk:
- Everyone is susceptible to constipation at one time or another;
- The elderly have a slower digestive system. However, the digestive system should function just as properly in children as in older people;
- Women that may be affected by hormonal changes as during menopause or pregnancy (on top of hormonal changes the uterus pushes against the intestines during pregnancy).
- Insufficient intake of liquids: the intestines extract a maximum amount of water from fecal matter therefore insufficient amount of liquids will make stools hard. We should drink up to 8 glasses (250ml each) of water a day;
- Insufficient intake of fibre: We need to eat 25 to 30 g of fibre per day. They increase the volume of stools and help in the movement through the intestinal tract, help with colon contraction and evacuation of stools. Examples of fibres: fruits, fresh vegetables, pastas, rice, cereals and whole wheat bread;
- Drinking milk: it may cause diarrhoea in some and constipation in others, especially in children. Eliminate it from your diet for 2 weeks to determine if it is the cause;
- Eating cabbage and beans: people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by painful constipation should avoid foods that provoke gas such as beans, cabbage and cauliflower;
- Stress: prolonged stress slows the digestive process;
- Lack of exercise: Exercise stimulates transit and accelerates the evacuation of fecal matter. Walking or jogging 20 to 30 minutes per day, 5 times a week helps;
- Medications: Certain medicines, especially codeine, ibuprofen, morphine, antacids, antihistamines, phenothiazines, sedatives, anxiolytics, anti-inflammatory and tricyclic antidepressants, diuretics and opiates reduce peristalsis, the muscular movement that propels digested foods towards the intestines. Some types of iron can also provoke constipation. Aggressive laxatives can reduce the bodies’ nutriment intake as well as provoke constipation by reaction and cause a dependence on laxatives.
Supplements to consider:
- ALOE VERA: has been used for a long time thanks to its internal curative virtues; intestinal problems, acidity, constipation. It is often recommended for the treatment of occasional constipation due to the emollient effects of the gel. It may be used for longer periods without risk. It may also reduce inflammation and calm intestinal irritation.
- CASCARA: has long been recognised for its laxative properties, cascara sagrada bark is still not well known. It softens stools and helps to expel them with less discomfort. The effects continue to be felt for 6 to 8 hours after ingestion. It increases secretions from the stomach, the liver, the pancreas and stimulates the colon. Very useful to treat haemorrhoids due to excessive pushing. Although the harvesting methods follow certain principles, it has a rapid yet gentle action. The bark is harvested during spring through summer and never on a tree under one year old. The maturing time allows the active effect of the bark to become gentler. After drying, the anthrones are oxidized into anthraquinones. Unfortunately, these principles have not always been respected and it is for this reason that the plant has a bad reputation. Land Art makes sure that the harvest has been conducted following these principles.
- TOTAL DETOX: is a mild laxative formula which does not only act as a laxative but as a stabiliser for colon activity. It contains Indian rhubarb, Aloe Vera jelly, dandelion root and cascara sagrada bark. It is a formula recommended for digestive tract upsets. The medicinal plants used are effective against constipation, avoiding bacterial invasions, decongesting the intestines, the liver and kidneys, provokes bile, restores intestinal tonus and stimulates intestinal contractions. It cleans and stimulates the entire digestive tract including the intestines. (Not recommended during pregnancy).
- B-COMPLEX: including vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) for its effect of stimulating intestinal contractions. Extra intake is beneficial in case of chronic constipation and offers an alternative to prescribed laxatives for pregnant women, children and the elderly.
Consult a physician in any of the following situations:
- If your symptoms persist more than 3 weeks and you are worried by this;
- If there is presence of blood in the stools, this is rare but constipation may be the sign of something more serious;
- If your regular bowel movements suddenly change;
- If you also have stomach cramps and vomiting ;
- If you also have a distended abdomen with constipation, it may be the sign of intestinal obstruction.
There are a few tricks to prevent constipation. Do you know any?
- Eating at least 5 servings of fruit (55 g each) per day stimulates the intestines;
- Drinking a warm beverage in the morning, herbal tea, decaffeinated coffee or a glass of warm water with a bit of lemon stimulates the intestines;
- Insoluble fibres in whole cereals absorb water in the digestive tract, create a sensation of satiety and increase the volume of feces;
- The best time for a bowel movement is after a meal. Choose a meal during the day and spend 10 minutes in the bathroom after that meal every day. In time, your colon will be conditioned to reacting naturally;
- Relax, the intestines contract in reaction to stress;
- Laughing can relieve constipation because it massages the intestines thereby stimulating digestion and relieving stress;
- The intestines become dependent on chemical laxatives, become lazy, aggravating constipation. Chemical laxatives may also damage the colon. Natural laxatives (TOTAL DETOX) do not create a dependency and are safe even when taken on a long term basis;
- Straining to pass stool may cause haemorrhoids and anal fissures which in turn aggravate constipation and reduce the opening of the anus;
- Put your feet up on a stool to lift the knees when sitting on the toilet. This position stimulates the muscles of the colon.
Before taking supplements, it is important to check with your health care professional. Your specific health situation may greatly influence the proper treatment.
References: Guide pratique des vitamines et minéraux, Amanda Ursell, éd. : HMH ; Guide des Interactions médicaments, nutriments et produits naturels, Alice Locong et Danielle Ruel, éd. : Les Presses de l’Université Laval ; Guide pratique de la phytothérapie, Andrew Chevalier, Éd. HMH ; Les plantes qui guérissent, Michael Castleman, Éd. : Modus Vivendi ; Des plantes qui guérissent, Marie Provost, Éd. : BQ ; Remèdes maison des médecins, Éd. : Modus Santé ; La Pharmacie verte, James A. Duke, Éd. : Modus Santé ; Symptômes, causes et guérison, Éd. : Modus Santé ; Les aliments contre la maladie, Éd. : Caractère ; Bien se soigner, Caroline Green, Éd. Trécarré ; Aliments santé, Aliments Danger, Éd. : Sélection Reader’s Digest, Le guide des vitamines et suppléments, Dr Earl Mindell, Éd. : Modus Vivendi, Les Médecines de la nature, Éd. : Sélection Reader’s Diges,.