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What is constipation?

Constipation is a disorder characterised by decreased frequency of bowel movements, resulting in waste matter remaining in the colon and becoming dry and difficult to expel. In asymptomatic individuals, stool frequency may range from several times per day to once per week. Constipation may stem from a variety of causes.

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What causes constipation?

Constipation may stem from a variety of causes.

  • A poor diet lacking in fluids &/or roughage can bring about constipation
  • Insufficient muscle tone in the intestinal or abdominal wall due to lack of exercise
  • Repeated failure to heed the signal to eliminate
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Lack of exercise (sedentary lifestyle), bed-rest
  • A sluggish liver producing poor quality bile (resulting in reduced peristalsis)
  • Nervousness, anxiety, stress or excitement may also result in constipation.
  • A number of prescription medications are also implicated in constipation.

What is considered "regular" or normal?

Having a bowel motion within 30 minutes after having a meal is ideal, however most people's digestive systems are not this efficient. Having a bowel motion every day, is considered to be acceptable. Missing a day or two or only going once or twice a week is indicating a problem. It is imperative that the bowels move on a daily basis. The bowel is a holding tank for waste matter that should be removed within eighteen to twenty-four hours. Harmful toxins can form after this period.

Antigens and endotoxins from bowel bacteria and undigested food particles are implicated as playing a significant role in the development of insulin resistance, candidiasis, meningitis, thyroid disease, migraines, fatigue and ulcerative colitis.

Ailments that may be caused by constipation are...

diverticulosis, haemorrhoids, hernia, boils, acne, bowel cancer, cellulite, indigestion, obesity, varicose veins, headaches, bad breath, insomnia, gas, abdominal pain and stress.

Constipation and diet...

Diet has been known to cure and prevent constipation, but if the cause is chronic and not related to diet, seek professional advice.

At least 8 glasses of water a day is essential just for good health, let alone if you have a problem like constipation.

The more fibre contained in the diet from fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, the softer and the larger amount of faeces will pass. You can purchase Quick Fibre Plus, a powdered fibre which can be sprinkled on food or added to a fruit smoothy. It is a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibres containing essential fatty acids that add bulk to the stool. It comes in chocolate and carob and the carob is sugar free.

Ground psyllium seeds are an excellent concentrated source of fibre and this can be purchased loose or in a capsule. As well as this, we have a fibre supplement called Multi-Fibre capsules, which contains psyllium, as well as a number of other "goodies". Freshly ground flaxseeds, or, flaxseeds that have been soaked overnight provide good mucilaginous fibre. Chemical laxatives will stimulate the bowel nerves and eventually weaken the muscles, whereas bran bulks the waste and activates the nerve reflexes that signal a healthy elimination.

Natural remedies to assist with Constipation...

Internal Cleansing Program is a 2 week program, that consists of 4 products, specific for helping to improve digestion, eliminate intestinal parasites and promote bowel regularity.

If you have to use a laxative, the one we recommend is the herb Cascara Sagrada. Cascara is very different to any other laxative. Most laxatives work by introducing an irritant into the body. We have a bowel motion from this because all the body wants to do is get rid of the irritant as fast as it can, which produces the evacuation. Cascara regulates the colon and is not habit forming. It promotes the normal "squeezing and contraction" of the bowel and tones the intestines as well as the rest of the body. It increases the secretions of the liver, stomach, pancreas and lower bowel - but is not an irritant to the bowel.

Anyone who has constipation needs to take an Acidophilus supplement. At Ideal Health we recommend Inner Health Plus. Taking this supplement will supply the body with 15 billion active Acidophilus organisms per capsule and taking it will help to maintain a healthy intestinal tract. It will help to promote an efficient elimination of waste materials, as well as good nutrient absorption and supplies a natural hydrochloric acid to the stomach, which aids in digestion.

We recommend using this in conjunction with Colostrum. Taking colostrum promotes the re-growth and re-colonization of beneficial bacteria in the bowel, which also help to break down nutrients for enhanced assimilation, as well as fighting harmful bacterial invaders. In addition, its epithelial growth factor helps repair the mucous-covered lining of the bowel to restore it to optimum function. This lining is a very sophisticated organ, when it is functioning properly it helps form a barrier against toxic and pathogenic invaders, at the same time it aids assimilation of beneficial nutrients.

FOS (Fructooligosaccharides) is a natural carbohydrate which helps the friendly bacteria in the intestines to reproduce and increase in number. FOS resists digestive enzymes and when it reaches the intestines it is utilised selectively by certain types of lactic-acid producing bacteria, such as Bifidus and Acidophilus. FOS then becomes the "food" for the friendly bacteria, helping it to thrive and multiply. FOS is found naturally occurring in onions, garlic, shallots, artichokes, wheat, barley and bananas. However it would take all the FOS in 13 bananas to equal 1 teaspoon of most FOS powders.

Chlorella is an algae similar to Spirulina, but is 5 time more potent. It is the highest known source of natural Chlorophyll, the green part of plants and taking it helps with the absorption of iron in the body. It also contains an abundance of the naturally occurring antioxidant Beta Carotene, 19 amino acids and 20 different vitamins and minerals, including B12, iron, iodine and zinc. As well as this, taking Chlorella helps to detoxify the liver and the blood stream, at the same time as feeding the friendly bowel flora. Studies have shown the improved immune systems and healing capabilities of people taking Chlorella. They have also shown that Chlorella has an affinity for the bowel and has the ability to remove heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium from the body

Foods containing naturally occurring oils can be useful in the treatment of constipation because of its lubricating effect on the mucous walls of the colon. Other foods that could help are garlic (the allicin in garlic stimulates the walls of the intestines), linseed oil (2-3 tbls per day), acidophilus yoghurt and fruits - especially apples, papaya, pineapple, prunes, figs, kiwifruit. Milk and cheese cause constipation in some people.

If your constipation is chronic, you could have a session, or, sessions of colonic irrigations. A colonic gently cleanses the colon by filling and emptying it with body temperature filtered water. You lie relaxed on a table. During the procedure, which usually lasts from 45-50 minutes, a trained registered nurse massages your abdomen to improve the peristaltic action. This is a very helpful and beneficial form of treatment.

Nutritional and Herbal support for Constipation includes:

Fish Oil - Helps to lubricate the bowel.

Magnesium - Attracts fluid to the bowel making stools pass easier

Cascara Sagrada - Produces bile which encourages normal peristaltic action in the bowel.

Some interesting points on Constipation...

  • Increase intake of water and fibre foods, including grains, cereals vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Water is one of the best laxatives available.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar etc) tea, coffee and chocolate.
  • Avoid foods that stimulate secretions by the mucous membranes, such as dairy products, fats, and spicy foods.
  • Eat prunes, kiwifruit or figs. These are excellent natural laxatives.
  • Partake in regular exercise. Physical activity speeds the movement of waste through the intestines. A thirty minute walk can often relieve constipation. Regular exercise is also important for preventing constipation in the first place.
  • Reduce stress, as this may slow the muscular movement of the bowel.
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhoea may a sign a of irritable bowel syndrome. Seek advice from a health practitioner.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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