Monday, December 3, 2007

Most Constipation Is Self-induced

If you suffer from chronic constipation, you should discuss it with your health care provider. The condition can lead to very serious long-term health problems, even death! There is hope however, because usually it is caused by lifestyle choices and can be relieved with some changes in your habits. You certainly want to do whatever you can to avoid taking any medications because all medications have side effects and most treat just the symptoms, not the real problem.

What is the real problem? Usually it is caused by a lack of exercise, a lack fiber in the diet and not enough fluid consumption. By increasing these and a few other changes we'll discuss, most people can be completely regular which is what your digestive system is designed to be. Constipation is a symptom of disease; it is not normal.

For exercise, you must do something that keeps your body moving. Simple as that. It can be as simple as a twenty-minute power walk each day, or a complex routine of various exercise disciplines combined. The main point is that your body can't relieve itself without some muscle tone and a little 'stirring things up'.

Many people are not aware that their bodies contain a substance, more abundant than blood, that functions to rid the cells of waste materials and flush them out. It is called lymph and you have more lymph than blood in you by far. This system is quite efficient, but has no pump. Your heart pumps your blood; muscle contraction moves your lymph. Perhaps this helps you to understand the huge overall benefits of exercise - it assist the body is cleansing itself from the inside out!

Another helpful physical aspect that helps is inversion, which simply means getting the body above the head. Standing on your head like a Yogi may seem strange in relation to constipation, but think about what's happening. All day long, you stand and gravity is pulling on you, including your intestines. Waste material can become packed firmly into the lower intestinal walls, causing blockages and mal-absorption of food. By inverting yourself, you let gravity pull the other way and move that stuff along. You don't have to stand on your head to invert, but this is not a Yoga lesson. Please speak with a Yoga instructor about this. If you have the means and space, another good option is an inversion table - simple and effective. The reason you are advised to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day is primarily for the fiber these foods provide. That fiber absorbs water, keeping the waste matter soft and therefore able to pass through the digestive tract easily. If you find it difficult for some reason to eat that each day, consider a natural fiber supplement, but food is the best source.

As mentioned above, fiber absorbs water and there wants to be plenty of water to do the trick. You have probably heard before that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of pure water per day. My advice is to double that, but if you constantly have a water supply with you and sip at it throughout your day, you can easily increase your intake of this "King Of Foods" (That's an African proverb.)

Finally, consider the modern toilet. It was apparently created by another species, because the natural position for elimination in humans and primates is to squat. This positions the bowel properly for an easy emptying, whereas sitting puts a bend in it creating a stopping point. Just because we've been sitting on toilets for hundreds of years does not mean it's the best way and many cultures do not do this. They squat and few have constipation.

So place a stool (a step stool!), in front of the john and put your feet up on it. Use a low one at first, as this will seem awkward and then slowly raise the feet until the knees are above the hips. You may find it difficult to believe, but this simple thing can be hugely beneficial in easing this most natural of functions.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Constipation