23. Freedom from Constipation

Constipation – hard stools, passed infrequently – can be very uncomfortable, but usually doesn’t signal disease or a serious problem. The “cure” for constipation consists of correcting the sort of dietary habits that make bowel habits irregular.

  1. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They serve as natural stool softeners thanks, in part, to their fiber content. Some fiber absorbs water like a sponge turning hard stool into large, soft, easy-to-pass masses.

  2. Eat other foods high in fiber like whole-grain breads and cereals, and bran. Try a large serving of prunes or prune juice.

  3. Drink at least 1 to 2 quarts of fluid every day. Have hot water, tea, etc. to stimulate the bowel

  4. Get plenty of exercise to help your bowels move things along.

  5. Don’t resist the urge to eliminate or put off a trip to the bathroom.

  6. If you take antacids or iron supplements and get constipated easily, discuss the use of these with your doctor.

  7. Take stool softeners or fiber supplements (brand name Metamucil) as directed by your doctor. Do not use “stimulant” laxatives (brand name Ex-Lax) or enemas without your doctor’s okay.

If you rely on laxatives for a prolonged time, your body loses its natural elimination reflex – the bowel can’t evacuate as well on its own. Long-term use of stimulant laxatives can also lead to a mineral imbalance.

If you’re still constipated no matter what you try, ask your doctor for advice. Constipation can be the side effect of certain medications (e.g., diuretics) or result from a medical problem (e.g., hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or an underactive thyroid gland), or problems with the large intestine (e.g., a tumor or diverticular disease).

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems