Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What You Should Know About Constipation

The world "constipation" has its roots in the Latin "con" (meaning together) and "stipare" (meaning to press). This derivation suggests an early belief that constipation caused the bowels to be pressed together, thereby inhibiting natural function, or alternatively that the contents of the bowel become compressed, with the same result. Experience of general practitioners reveals that lazy bowels bother every person at some time, regardless of age.

There are two main types of constipation-primary or functional constipation and secondary constipation, which accompanies various conditions.

Basically, primary constipation comes about when too much water is absorbed back into the body from the bowel. This leads to a drying-out and hardening of faeces, and makes their passage through the bowel uncomfortable or even impossible through lack of natural lubrication.

Primary constipation occurs often in elderly people as a result of senile changes. The loss of the tone in muscles of the abdominal wall can result in senile changes and irregular bowel movements. Children, suffer from it when their growing systems have not yet adjusted themselves to an accustomed pattern of bowel behaviour. When a proper habit is established in childhood, the basis for a healthy routine in adult is created. Radical "crash diets" frequently lack the proper balance the body requires of its food mix, and the normal rhythm is disturbed. Nearly every mother-to-be finds constipation a problem as a result of increasing pressure against the bowels during pregnancy.

There can be few ailments about which there is such wide opinion on treatment and "cure".

Certain primitive tribes, obsessed with maintaining inflexible regularity, still practise elaborate rites involving reed enemas and violent herbal preparations; even tiny babies, displaying the slightest sign of a sluggish bowel, are subjected to this drastic treatment. To the more enlightened world, it is obvious that such measures are injurious.

A great many people, however, are still ignorant of the dangers which are attached to persistent use of harsh laxatives. These laxatives-numerous on the market-contain phenolphthalein compounds, bowel irritants, or mineral oils. They are not only immediately harmful to the system but can cause long-term damage through creating a dependence. The bowel movements become impossible with out increasing doses of the purgative. Even the time-honoured favourites of earlier generations, castor oil and liquid paraffin, fall into this category because they interfere with the natural bowel behaviour.

Under normal circumstances, regularity can be maintained by bearing in mind the following hints:

  1. Have a leisurely, light breakfast. The physiological gastro colic reflex will signal the large bowel to empty itself soon after food enters, the stomach.
  2. Establish a set, unhurried time for using the lavatory.
  3. Be sure to include a certain amount of roughage in your diet.
  4. Light exercise is essential if your work keeps you at a desk for long hours.
If, however, constipation occurs, then it assumes first-aid importance. It should be tackled immediately to prevent a bad pattern of bowel behaviour becoming established. A suitable treatment is a safe, effective and non-habit forming laxative such as milk of magnesia. Milk of magnesia contains Magnesium Hydroxide which draws body fluids into the intestines through the process knows as osmosis. This increases the bulk and softens the contents of the large intestine rhythmic bowel movements called peristalsis and assisting evacuation through a gentle flushing action. Practice regular and sensible eating habits and establish a routine that your body gets used to, so that bowel movements occur at a fixed time every day or every other day. The key is to establish a pattern that your body will get used to so that at that time it ready to empty itself! When nature finds you ready and willing, you will not have any difficulties.

Stella Marie is a trained Beautician & Dietician. Alongwith her clinic, she also runs the popular website Visit for more articles.

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