Constipation can affect all of us some of the time. And according to the National Digestive Diseases Clearinghouse, four million adults in the United States suffer from constipation frequently — earning the laxative manufacturing industry three-quarters of a billion dollars a year!
You are constipated, if you:
- Have difficulty having a bowel movement
- Have hard stools
- Feel that you did not eliminate completely
- Have a swollen abdomen or pain in the abdominal area
The causes for constipation can be many. The most common include:
- Not enough fiber in the diet
- Not enough fluids (especially water, juices)
- Skipping meals
- Eating processed foods with chemical preservatives
- Drinking sodas with artificial preservatives and additives, or artificial so-called juices
- Low activity or exercise (or no activity)
- Holding back a bowel movement when you feel the need to go
Other less common causes are:
- Overuse of laxatives (which over time weaken bowel muscles)
- Taking antacid medications with calcium or aluminum
- Taking other medications such as narcotics, antidepressants and iron supplements
- Various illnesses, including hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and colon cancer
The Importance of Your Diet in Keeping You Regular
If medications and more serious illnesses have been ruled out, then the most common reason for your constipation is probably lack of dietary fiber.
Many people diminish the importance of having daily bowel movements, thinking that as long as they have a couple of them a week, or every other day, they’re okay.
But the truth is that having a daily bowel movement is an important part of staying healthy, as you evacuate from your system the overload of bacteria that are naturally present in feces.
Having a daily bowel movement will help you greatly reduce your chances of developing diseases like colon cancer and colorectal cancer. It is always a good idea to evacuate your bowels regularly, and never a good idea to go more than a couple of days without having a bowel movement.
You of course want to be able to go the natural way. Instead of taking laxatives with artificial chemicals in them, or dietary fiber supplements that are unpleasant to drink, the very best way to keep you regular is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
You can’t go wrong with eating vegetables and fruits; you can never eat too many. The only time you can go wrong with them is when you don’t eat enough!
Include a variety of vegetables and fruits, in different bright colors, and be sure to eat frequent portions of green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, lettuces, and chopped fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro). These are all packed with nutrients and antioxidants; they will not only add natural bulk to your bowels, but will nourish your body and prevent the aging of your cells, helping your system fight diseases.
Eating whole grains is much more nutritious and adds more fiber than eating starches. When buying bread, look for whole wheat breads that are natural — without preservatives or fillers. The only way you’ll know what kind of bread you have in your hands is by reading the ingredient label.
Instead of drinking sodas, artificial juices, or gimmicky “sports drinks,” drink plenty of water daily (preferably, purified or bottled) and natural juices (dilute these with water, to cut down on sugar intake). If you’re not currently in the habit of drinking very much water, don’t worry! Start drinking a couple of 16-oz. glasses a day, or more — and soon, you’ll find that your system will need water regularly, and you will crave it over sugary drinks! Water will help keep you regular and keep your system clean.
Also, use an oil such as olive oil for cooking, as it has many nutrients, promotes cardiovascular health, and is believed by some naturopaths to help move bowels.
If you take the above suggestions, you will have a bowel movement every day, predictably and effortlessly.
Should your bowels still need a little push, however, castor oil has been used for millennia as a laxative. It works by stimulating the walls of the large and small intestines, promoting the movement of stool. It starts to work some five hours after it’s ingested orally.
What if Baby Is Constipated?
A young infant can’t yet eat fruits and veggies, or drink castor oil.
The following castor oil massage will prove beneficial for a baby whose belly is tight and bloated, or who may be colicky or suffering from gas pains.
Gently massaging warmed oil onto baby’s belly in a circular, clockwise motion will be soothing, promote relaxation, and help eliminate gas. (Don’t forget to rub your hands together before starting massage, to make sure they’re not cold.)
You will need:
- One 6-oz. bottle of castor oil
- A small pot half-filled with water
1. Loosen the cap on the castor oil and place bottle in pot of water
2. Warm water until small bubbles form on the pot’s bottom
3. Test to see if oil is warm enough by applying a couple of drops to the inside of your wrist (oil should be as warm as possible, but not excessively so)
You will want to write the date that you opened the bottle on the label, and store oil where children cannot reach it.
Warm oil up whenever needed and discard bottle after six months.
By Lisa Pecos