While it may not be a particularly glamorous blog topic, constipation is an issue that, at one time or another, has impacted all of us. If you suffer from chronic constipation, you know how miserable it can make you feel.
While certainly not all-inclusive, let’s examine some steps you can take to help keep you regular:
1. Fluids – Drinking plenty of water…and cutting back on other drinks like coffee, milk, alcohol and sodas, is one of best and simplest things you can do to promote regularity. It’s a good idea to drink water very soon after you wake for the day to re-hydrate your body and aid in the natural process. One or two large glasses of water should be sufficient to get started. After that, make sure to sip (not gulp) water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration. Remember, the digestive tract is one long tube, and the journey from the mouth to the bowels takes a bit of time. You want to keep your body well hydrated all day, and you won’t do this by gulping down several bottles of water a few times a day. It’s much better in the long run to drink smaller amounts consistently throughout the day.
2. Fiber – Adequate fiber intake is also essential to regularity. If you can, try to take soluble fiber in as natural a form as you can find. Ground chia seeds, ground flaxseed, psyllium husks, and oat bran are a few options. Pectin, which is found naturally in fruits such as apples, pears and cherries is also very helpful in increasing viscosity and volume of stool. If you can, try to get 20 – 30 grams of soluble fiber into your diet regimen each day.
3. Probiotics – Probiotics are supplements that contain live bacteria, and once taken orally, the live bacteria contained in the supplements are introduced into our systems. It’s been estimated that the human body consists of about 10 trillion cells, and the intestines of each of us are inhabited by 10 times as many microorganisms. These “good bacteria” help promote healthy digestion by breaking down food into the essential nutrients we need. Probiotics work for constipation especially because they help break down the waste better in the large intestine, which allows stool to move smoother through the colon. Remember, it’s important to take a high quality probiotic that contains the appropriate strains to aid in constipation.
4. Nutritional Supplements – There are several nutritional supplements that may be of use in treating constipation.
Vitamin C has long been known as a natural laxative in higher doses. No specific dose fits everyone’s bowels so it requires a little self-experimentation. The best advice is to start low and increase every few days – maybe 500mg twice a day to start – until the constipation is resolved. As always, check with your doctor before embarking on this regimen.
Magnesium Citrate has also been shown to be helpful in constipation. It works by increasing water in your intestines. Since your intestines will be absorbing this excess water from your body it is very important to drink plenty of water after taking Magnesium. This will keep you from becoming dehydrated.
There are some medical reasons that you should NOT be taking a magnesium supplement. An example of caution would exist if you suffer from any kind of kidney disease due to magnesium being excreted by the kidneys. If kidneys are not functioning well, a person can be at risk of having excessive magnesium. Also, supplemental magnesium can interfere with the effectiveness of some medications, so always check with your doctor before taking supplemental magnesium.
5. Exercise – Aerobic activities are probably the best exercises for relieving constipation. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to our organs, and bringing more blood to the gastrointestinal tract results in stronger intestinal contractions and more digestive enzymes. The stronger the contractions and the more those juices flow, the more quickly and easily food waste will move through the colon and out of the body. Aerobic exercise can include walking, running, swimming, biking, and other similar activities. As always, check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough for exercise.
I hope these suggestions help you if you’re struggling with this uncomfortable condition. If there’s anything you’ve had success with in treating constipation, let us know!
Michael Lenz RPh, is a partner in Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga. He has over 10 years of experience in custom compounding. He has received extensive training in Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and Adrenal Fatigue. He is currently enrolled in the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Program.
sources: NIH.org; everydayhealth.com