Saturday, March 24, 2012

Constipation - Dealing With The Other 'C' Word Naturally

No-one likes to talk about a dysfunctional bowel especially constipation, the other 'C' word. In fact anything dealing with our internal plumbing is usually very embarrassing, after all, who wants to talk about poop. Although I have had short bouts of constipation during UC flareups, my problem has always been the opposite. Most people will have episodes of constipation during their lifetime, but I know many who have a chronic problem, and it's not fun. In fact it can be downright painful, especially if you get hemorrhoids from the straining.

SYMPTOMS:

If you have elimination problems for more than 3 months- hard stools, straining when you go, inability to completely evacuate, pain, bloating, swollen abdomen, and have less than two to three bowel movements per week, or any combination of those symptoms, you're constipated.

CAUSES:

There are many things that can cause constipation including:

-not drinking enough water
-not including enough high fiber in your diet
-vegging out in front of the TV instead of exercising
-traveling or some disruption in your routine
-aging
-too much dairy (which can also cause the runs for those who are lactose intolerant)
-certain medications (iron supplements, diuretics, pain and blood pressure meds, antacids among others)
-Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
-Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) like Ulcerative Colitis
-colon and rectum obstructions
-other disorders and diseases including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Stroke, Lupus, Diabetes
-pregnancy
-using too many stool softeners (laxatives)
-not going when you have the urge
-depression
-eating disorders

and the list goes on.

PREVENTION AND TREATMENT:

There are many natural ways to treat constipation that attack the root problem, not just the symptom, and the main one is prevention.

A. Diet

Eat more fiber- whole grains, beans, lightly cooked veggies, wheat bran, ground or whole flax seeds.

But when searching for what foods to eat to prevent or help with constipation you're going to find differing opinions. Bananas, for example, can help with constipation or cause it in others. In some cases it can cause diarrhea.  Some swear by prunes, others, not so much. Oriental Medicine explains why certain foods can cause constipation for some but not for others. It all depends on what 'type' you are: 'hot' or 'cold'.  This website briefly details that, and also includes some interesting home remedies that might be helpful, including the following.

Drink 2 cups of warm water, followed by a 10-minute walk, about 20 - 30 minutes before breakfast everyday. [I drink a full glass of water first thing in the a.m. with my morning supplements, and off I go]

Maintain the same bathroom schedule everyday, 20 minutes before breakfast (even if you can't have a bowel movement, still go through the actions).

Eat an ounce of walnuts before bedtime every night.

Use a juicer to juice a large potato. Mix the potato juice with 1 teaspoon of honey and drink 20 minutes before breakfast.

Lubricate your intestines by eating walnuts, sesame seeds and/or peanuts.

He also includes instructions on an abdominal massage that seems to relieve constipation.

Stay away from high fats in your diet including dairy and meat.

Remember add those high fiber foods slowly, since it can also cause gas and bloating.  And drink plenty of water. Stay away from too much caffeine, it can dehydrate the body, and thus harden your stool.

B. Exercise: 

Make sure you get enough exercise. Walk, swim, whatever gets your body moving will help with digestion and ultimately how you move your bowels.

C. Go, When You Gotta Go:

If you have the urge to go, make sure you head to the bathroom. Isn't it better to get that icky ca ca out of your system, than letting it just sit inside your body? 

OTHER NATURAL REMEDIES:

- magnesium - a deficiency can cause constipation, on the other hand, too much can cause the runs.
- Probiotics, they're great for most digestive disorders, but start off with a lower billion count, because it can cause gas and bloating if you don't start slowly.
-herbs and herbal teas, like 'smooth move', rhubarb, senna and aloe are also beneficial. Here's a list of other helpful herbs.
-ripe kiwi fruits-  some people swear by this.


Other sources: About.com/altmed

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