Natural Relief from this Common Condition
Today I want to talk to you about something that everybody experiences at some point in their lives. But it’s also something that most people prefer not to talk about. That’s unfortunate because as a result we don’t get a lot of good information on the subject. Which means, we don’t usually know the best and safest ways to remedy the condition.
The condition that I want to talk to you about is constipation. It might be the sort of thing that’s not talked about in polite company. But trust me. The next time you’re backed up, you’ll be glad for this information. Or, better yet, with this information you might not get backed up again.
What Is Constipation And Is It A Problem?
Defining constipation is a very personal matter. Some people regularly have several bowel movements daily while at the other extreme there are some people who have less than one bowel movement per week. There is no universally correct frequency or other ways to define what a normal bowel habit should be.
What really matters is how you feel. If you feel good and you feel comfortable with your bowel habits, don’t let anyone convince you that you should do otherwise. Unfortunately, there are some people who never understood that speaking about bowel movements in polite company is rude and unwanted. And some of those people will insist that everyone should have 3 bowel movements per day or are at risk of illness. Please do not pay any heed to those people.
The truth is that extensive scientific research has completely disproven such claims. There are no harmful effects from having infrequent bowel movements. Again, what matters is your level of comfort.
However, clearly there are times in everybody’s life when he will experience discomfort. The symptoms typically include straining, a lack of “completeness” in bowel movements, bloating, and general discomfort. It is also common for such an experience to produce emotional distress as well.
If and when you experience such symptoms, it’s important to know what you can do to safely provide relief.
It is worth noting that while almost all cases of constipation are not a cause for medical concern, if ever you experience acute pain, vomiting, fever, or other “alarm” symptoms, you should seek medical assistance. But in the vast majority of cases, you can simply help yourself using the remedies that follow.
It should come as no surprise to hear that dietary fiber is a useful, proven, and safe remedy for constipation. However, I strongly suggest that you rely on natural food sources of dietary fiber first and foremost. Many fiber supplements are not desirable for reasons I’ll outline below.
Experts recommend that men strive to eat at least 30 grams of dietary fiber every day. Dietary fiber is proven to improve transit time, reduce the risk of colon cancer, improve blood cholesterol levels, and more. Studies show that those who regularly eat adequate dietary fiber from food get constipated far less often. Unfortunately, the average man eats only half the minimum recommended amount.
The very best sources of dietary fiber are fruits and vegetables. I’ve shared with you about the many benefits of fruits and vegetables from normalizing blood pressure to reducing cancer risk. Now you can add to that list the fact that fruits and vegetables will help you to be regular and comfortable. And when it comes to fruits and vegetables, only whole fruits and vegetables supply the much needed dietary fiber.
Beans are also an excellent source of dietary fiber. In fact, beans are the single greatest source of fiber of any common food. They are also excellent sources of many needed nutrients, so you’ll be smart to add some beans to your diet regularly. Of course beans are well known for their flatulence production, and are the source of many jokes. But when eaten regularly, they actually improve digestion and reduce flatulence. So introduce them to your diet slowly so that you can adjust.
Now let’s say you’ve been eating at least 30 grams of fiber per day from foods and you still get constipated. The old standby of prunes turns out to be a smart choice. Like all dried fruit, prunes supply a hefty amount of dietary fiber, giving you a boost. A recent study showed they relieved symptoms of constipation in 70% of the people studied. The same study showed that prunes were a more effective remedy than psyllium. Psyllium is a common constipation remedy supplement found in most drug stores.
Lastly, there are fiber supplements. Unfortunately, many fiber supplements contain dangerous artificial ingredients. I strongly recommend that you skip those. But there are a few completely natural fiber supplements that can be of benefit short term. The two that can be beneficial are psyllium husks and ground flaxseed. Though less effective than dried fruit, both are still often quite effective and safe.
If you use a fiber supplement, I don’t recommend that you rely on it daily. It is far better to get your fiber from food. Also, bulking fiber supplements such as psyllium and flaxseed (ground, not whole) become less effective if used daily. If you do use a fiber supplement occasionally, be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Otherwise, they can actually make the problem worse.
One last note regarding fiber. While most dietary fiber is healthy for most people, those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are sensitive to some types of fiber. For those with IBS, it is typically best to stay away from foods high in insoluble fiber (many whole grains, for example). However, many with IBS find that they benefit from soluble fiber.
The “good” bacteria in our intestines that aid digestion are called probiotics. They do all kinds of really important things for health. That includes making up 80 percent of the total immune system in your body, helping you to absorb nutrients, and preventing constipation.
Studies show that consuming probiotics help to balance your gut’s good and bad bacteria, which is critical for proper digestion and relieving constipation. Probiotics are also excellent at fighting IBS, which can cause constipation.
If you’re struggling with constipation, a boost in probiotics can often make a huge difference. The tastiest and most affordable sources are naturally fermented traditional foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. But before you grab just any foods from the grocery store shelves, hold on. Because the only foods that supply needed probiotics are those that haven’t been heated since fermentation. Look for yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut that state that they contain live cultures.
If you don’t want to eat naturally fermented foods, you can opt for probiotic supplements. Do your homework and only purchase products from reputable companies. Preferably, look for shelf-stable products that guarantee viability until the expiration date.
Regular exercise helps to stimulate blood flow and intestinal function to keep you regular. This means your bowels will tend to move properly. Regular exercise does not mean running on a treadmill or anywhere else. Nor does it mean trips to the gym. It simply means moderate, regular activity that gets your heart rate pumping.
Here are some typical moderate exercises that I recommend:
- Take a 30 minute walk every day
- Do some light yard work
- Go bowling
- Go for a swim every day (if possible)
- Go for a daily bike ride
These activities are fun and will go a long way to help relieve your constipation.
If all else fails, some herbs can reliably help to get things moving again.the first herb I’d like to tell you about may surprise you. Coffee is a great natural drink that can help get your bowels moving. The main ingredient in coffee. caffeine, is a stimulant that acts to crank up the digestive system. One or two cups in the morning can work wonders on a digestive system bound up by constipation.
I recommend that you try coffee before you use any of the stimulant laxative herbs I mention below. Of course, you should only use coffee in the morning unless you know that you tolerate caffeine later in the day. But otherwise, coffee is very safe and provides many health benefits. So it’s often your best bet for herbs to help you get regular again.
But if you’re still struggling with constipation after trying all of the aforementioned remedies (fiber, probiotics, exercise, and coffee), a small amount of a natural stimulant laxative herb may help. The two gentlest and safest are senna and cascara sagrada. If you choose to use cascara sagrada be sure to only use naturally aged bark since the fresh bark is far too strong.
These natural stimulant laxatives are gentle when used in small amounts. However, do not exceed the recommendations on the product label. They typically work within 4 hours. And research has shown that they are very safe.
However, do not rely on them on a daily basis. Only use them in small amounts when in need.
Irregularity is something that hits all of us at one time or another. Before you consider harsher, store-bought products, try using some of the natural remedies I’ve outlined above.
For thousands of years before there were drugstores, people successfully handled constipation naturally. Eating a diet rich in fiber and getting some daily exercise will go a long way in helping you minimize or eliminate constipation.