Sunday, September 23, 2007

Natural Constipation Relief

The digestive system is a marvel of engineering with up to 25 feet of small and large intestines coiled in our abdomen. In order to function properly it requires three things: water, fiber and exercise. If these essentials are not provided, the result is stagnation. The intestines can become compacted with dry waste matter, and moving the bowels becomes a strain. If the condition continues, bowel movements become infrequent or don't occur at all. Abdominal pain and gas often occur, caused by waste trapped in the system.

Defining constipation can be difficult, because everyone's definition varies according to what she feels is normal for her. It's generally considered that having five movements a week is normal. Having fewer than two movements per week or experiencing a change in bowel habits is considered abnormal.

Causes and natural relief

Several factors lead to constipation, and poor eating habits are the most obvious cause. Cutting down on high-fat, over processed foods, and substituting foods that are high in fiber can help create soft, bulky stools that move through the intestines quickly. Grains, fruit, vegetables, brown rice, bran cereals and beans help promote regularity. Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is highly recommended. (If, for example, you consumer three half-cup servings of vegetables, eat an apple and drink a glass of orange juice, you've fullfilled the day's fruit-and-vegetable requirement.) Eat white flour, white rice and cheese in moderation and in balance with high-fiber foods.

Too much stress can also affect bowel habits. Constipation tends to occur in people who lead a high-stress lifestyle. Stressed-out overachievers may literally be holding in too much. A pressing job, moving, emotional turmoil and similar stress-inducing situations can trigger constipation. Travel and the on-the-run eating habits that go with it can also cause bowel problems.

A problem called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which causes erratic bowel habits, cramps, gassiness and bloating. People with IBS have an overly sensitive gastrointestinal tract and, under stress or in response to certain foods, can have spasms, disrupting digestion. Learning to cope with stress and to eat properly can help control this problem.

Breathing exercises can help keep stress at bay. In her book Heal Thyself With Health and Longevity (Heal Thyself Press, Brooklyn, $ 14.95), holistic practitioner Queen Afua recommends an exercise called "full body breath." Start by inhaling deeply on a count of four. Exhale on a count of eight. On the inhalation, extend the abdomen out as the chest expands while relaxing the shoulders and the rest of the body. With each breath, relax the body and the mind deeper and deeper. Do this several times a day for quick stress breaks.

Getting moving can also get your bowels moving. The digestive tract depends on the muscular activity of the intestine to facilitate the passing of stool.

Participating in some kind of aerobic activity at least three times a week for 20 minutes per session may help. Walking is one of the best ways to activate the whole nervous system and bloodstream. When you're constipated, it means material is stuck. Walking will change that immediately.

More tips for beating constipation:

1. Drink the juice of half a lemon in a glass of warm water or four to six ounces of prune or apple juice in the morning to stimulate bowel activity.

2. Eat dried fruits such as raisins, prunes and apricots.

3. Drink more water throughout the day, at least six to eight glasses, since when the body gets dehydrated, the waste matter in the colon becomes hard and almost impossible to eliminate without strain.

4. Eat a large salad with avocado and lemon juice as dressing every day

Here's one of Rita's favorite natural elimination recommendations: Natural Constipation Relief

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