Courtesy of Latitudes, the on-line newsletter of the excellent Association for Comprehensive NeuroTherapy a non-profit American organisation which explores non-drug based, often nutritional, approaches to treating anxiety, autism, attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, tics and Tourette syndrome, and learning disabilities.
Constipation is not only uncomfortable, it is unhealthy. Whether a child or adult, people feel better and may even think better when the intestinal tract is moving effectively and regularly. Proper elimination also ensures that potentially toxic, infectious, and allergenic substances don't accumulate and damage or interfere with the body's biological systems.
Many conventional treatments for constipation are inconvenient, ineffective, or may be too harsh. This article addresses some common causes and natural environmental approaches to this problem. Sometimes following just one of the suggestions will adequately treat the problem; other times more than one approach may be needed. Certain efforts are more effective with some people than others, so a little trial and error may be needed to find what works. With the exception of nystatin, which is a prescription medication, items mentioned are available in natural food stores.
Causes of constipation
Constipation associated with fatigue may be an indication of hypothyroidism;
Severe constipation can indicate bowel obstruction or tumor;
Chronic constipation might indicate a hidden yeast infection in the gut;
A low fiber diet contributes to constipation;
Constipation can be caused by hidden food allergy or even chemical allergy;
Inadequate hydration often leads to constipation;
Iron supplements and certain medications can affect elimination;
Pregnant women and travelers often complain of constipation;
Sedentary people who get very little exercise or activity are more prone to develop constipation;
Conditions that impact the nervous system or body tissue (such as multiple sclerosis or lupus) may cause difficulty with elimination.
Water: Drink plenty of purified water or seltzer water throughout the day. Consider drinking a full glass of water prior to meals.
Juices: Fresh vegetable juices and diluted prune juice will soften stools.
Fiber: Eat more healthy high fiber vegetables, seeds, fresh fruits (especially citrus), and whole grains for more natural intestinal fiber.
Flax: Freshly ground flaxseed powder may be added to the diet (obtain at natural food stores). Wheat or oat bran and psyllium are also high fiber substitutes.
Go natural: Eat less packaged and processed foods high in sugars and chemical preservatives. Avoid sweets.
Animal products: Eat less high fat meats, dairy products, and eggs.
Coffee: Organic Sumatra coffee or other low acid coffee may improve energy level and stimulate peristalsis (the muscular motion in the digestive tract).
Olive oil: Use more extra virgin olive oil. This is a natural anti-inflammatory for the body. Use it instead of butters or margarines to decrease bowel lining inflammation.
Ginger: Fresh ginger, raw or in cooking, has a natural anti-inflammatory and healing effect on the gut or bowel wall.
Food allergy: Minimize or avoid known allergic foods. Blood and skin tests are available to detect hidden food allergies.
Foods with magnesium: Eat dark green leafy vegetables and avocados; these are high in magnesium, which can reduce inflammation.
Supplements (adult doses)
Buffered vitamin C powder
1-2 tablespoons mixed in water or juice and taken on an empty stomach should stimulate peristalsis and a bowel movement within 45 minutes. This dosage can be individualized; a strong laxative effect is a sign to decrease the dose the next time.
1000mg to 2000mg has been shown to stimulate peristalsis and have a laxative effect.
Magnesium and vitamin B6
A combination of 50mg of B6 and 100mg of chelated magnesium can help reduce gut inflammation and induce a relaxation effect on the bowel wall. Also, some people with a chronic problem find that 200 – 400mg chelated magnesium taken one to three times a day with meals can prevent constipation from developing.
This improves digestion, immunity and bowel function when taken with meals three times daily (5 capsules or 1 tablespoon pure gel at each meal). Excellent for the elderly.
I have found that two nystatin tablets daily regulates bowel function in some individuals prone to chronic constipation with hidden yeast infections in the gut. (Stool tests may be advised to confirm hidden gut infection.)
A derivative of coconut, this is a natural antifungal and is helpful in eliminating bloating, gas, and constipation in some individuals.
This is one of many natural laxative type products containing senna for detoxifying the bowel. It can be used for severe cases of chronic constipation rather than enemas. Product info here.
Therbiotic or Vital-10 powder by Klaire
These are high potency probiotics that can restore normal bowel flora balance and may help to regulate bowel function by improving healthy bowel flora populations.
If there is a marked or prolonged change in bowel habits, consult a doctor;
Test for abnormal thyroid function;
Evaluate any medication use that may be contributing to chronic constipation;
If issues do not resolve, see a gastroenterologist for further evaluation and colonoscopy.
Keep active! Walk more and exercise daily.
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day, I walk myself into a state of well-being and away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.
— Soren Kierkegaard
Albert Robbins, DO
Also see Micki Rose's article on constipation - All Bunged Up!
More general articles on digestive health
First Published in 2010
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