Constipation : A Modern Plague.
Constipation has become an epidemic in our modern lifestyle. Today laxatives seems 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 shape. But a healthy colon leads to elimination at least 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 stool, 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).
- 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).
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Two types of constipation:
Mostly lazy bowel type of constipation.
Some individuals have spastic constipation (narrowing of the colon with small, ribbon-like stools).
For lazy bowel, a high-fiber diet with increased water intake is recommended.
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.
Drink this healing tea if you have a lot of trapped gas. Stock up on ginger root, anise, fennel and caraway seeds. Buy fresh organic ginger and put a few thinly sliced pieces in water mixed with a level tablespoon of fennel, anise and caraway. Boil for five minutes and drink this healing tea. Ginger contains a criminative that protects the stomach. Ginger increases circulation so it helps effect a systemic cleansing through the bowels. Fennel treats indigestion, gas and spasms of the digestive tract and increases peristalsis. Caraway and anise are stimulants that reduce spasms in the gastrointestinal tract.
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).
The following are natural laxatives that help with constipation but do not irritate or poison your colon like laxatives or medicinal herbs.
Some of you who've tasted tamarind may wonder how can this be a fruit! It's so sour! Well, lemons are considered a fruit and tamarind is just like lemons. If you eat a lot of tamarind fruits in one sitting you'll end up with diarrhea! Tamarind is a powerful natural laxative. More powerful than prunes. So it is an excellent natural solution for constipation problems.
Tamarind also aids digestion, lowers fevers, has antiseptic effects and is also known to be high in vitamin C.
Tamarind can be found in grocery stores in the fruit section. It has a tan/brown pod-like shape and paper like skin. Buy only closed pods, not broken ones and make sure the pod color is closer to tan not toward gray. Press on the papery skin to break it and remove the strings and seeds. Eat the black moist meat. Open the meat part with your fingers and check the inside. If it's totally white, it's good to eat. If you find little seedy brown things inside the meat, then it's not good to eat (this indicates that it's decomposing).
If you have a severe case of constipation, you are better off drinking a glass of tamarind juice at night before you go to sleep and another glass first thing when you wake up in the morning. To make juice, buy tamarind paste from Thai or Chinese groceries (Whole Foods grocery sells this paste in the Asian section). Sometimes it is sold as a liquid or dried. If you get dried tamarind, soak in water for an hour, then using a fork, puree the pulp, mix with water and drink.
You could also use dried or tamarind paste for cooking. Many Thai recipes use tamarind fruit and lemon grass for their sour taste instead of salt. Now you can avoid the harmful side effects of salt and get the same sour taste for your recipes. Tamarind is truly an incredible fruit.
Also called cassia, cinnamon is the fruit of a plant that is found in most tropical countries. It is one of humanity's oldest fruits used for medicinal purposes with its recorded use in Egypt dating back to 2,500 B.C.
Cinnonman helps with constipation because "...it triggers a biliary release and activates intestinal peristalsis.....Cassia is particularly indicated in the event of constipation during infectious illnesses. But how does cassia facilitate detoxification and trigger the elimination of all kinds of abnormal material from the body? The exact mechanism is not known, but it appears that cassia acts to permit large proteins to cross the intestinal membrane in order to pass from the blood into the colon. Cassia is a natural food which can play a crucial role...to facilitate the detoxification processes...Between six and eight hours after cassia has been ingested, its laxative effect manifests in the form of diarrhea which is abundant but not painful...It is important, however, not to take too much cassia, especially at the beginning. The doses should be small at first, and gradually increased until the point is reached where the regulation becomes instinctive." (Comby, pgs. 199-200).
This sugary sweet fruit is one of the most ancient plant foods of the Middle East. Dates are used in the Middle East for weakness and digestive health. Most of us are aware of dates nutritional value and high sugar content which sometimes can be up to 60 percent. However, most of you may not be aware that dates have complete protein (all the essential amino acids). Also dates are good sources of B12, niacin, iron, and potassium. Present in small amounts in dates are calcium, chlorine, magnesium and vitamins A, B1 and B2. Fiber is also high in dates which helps the digestive system.
Figs have many medicinal properties. They aid digestion by cleansing and soothing the intestine; they also treat dysentery and constipation.
Of all the common fruits, the fig has the highest sugar content. Dried, a fig is about 50 percent sugar; fresh, about 10 percent. Dried figs have more dietary fiber than prunes, and-ounce for ounce- are higher in calcium than cow's milk (Wood, pg. 129). According to a report in the scientific journal (Nature April, 1998), in which about 60 species of figs were studied, figs contained up to four times the calcium content of most other fresh foods. Five figs can give you 250 mg of calcium (Delicious Living, November 02). Figs also have high amounts of protein, and abundant magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
If you eat figs fresh, eat their skin where most of the fiber and calcium are.
Few foods contain both insoluble and soluble fibers and prunes just happen to be one of these foods. Consume it either raw or dried as a healthy snack. Three pieces of dried prunes will give you 4.2 grams of fiber.
. Avoid constipating foods and drinks, including cheese, fried foods, sweets, white flour, salt, junk food, beef, pasteurized milk, wine, carbonated drinks, and coffee.
. Bran is an excellent natural transitional solution from medicinal laxatives. You can start by eating one tablespoon of either organic wheat or oat bran per day. Gradually increase to five or six tablespoons daily. Remember that this is just a transitional food to get your bowel active again. After a couple of months of good regular bowel movements, you'll want to start cutting back on this type of bran. The reason you want to do so is because bran can reduce your body's ability to absorb calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc (Calbom, p. 131). Hopefully, your intake of fruits and vegetables will give the body all the fiber it needs to continue regular daily bowel movements.
To help with digestion and assimilation:
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:
- Coenzyme Q10 micro-blended with organic flax oil.
- 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.
Intestinal hygiene is a prerequisite of health:
In "Dr. Jensen's Guide to Better Bowel Care", Dr. Jensen quotes Hering's Law of Cure: "All cure starts from within out, from the head down, and in the reverse order as the symptoms appeared." He relates this to the digestive tract's central role in disease; the seeds are sown there . No wonder that traditional Chinese medicine considers the digestive system the cornerstone of strong immunity. Therefore, it is very important to reverse constipation so it does not lead to a variety of health problems in the future.
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.