Constipation is defined as either opening the bowels less than 3 times a week or as difficulty in opening the bowels and producing small, hard stools. The most common cause of constipation is lack of fibre in the diet which then suppresses the reflex to open the bowels. It can also be a side effect of iron supplements, painkilling drugs, anti-depressants, an anal fissure or a complication in pregnancy where the uterus presses on the bowel.
Persistent and progressively worse constipation should be investigated to find the underlying cause. Most cases of constipation will respond to appropriate diet therapy. Constipation is common, particularly in the elderly who may become dependant on the use of laxatives to produce a bowel motion. However the long term use of laxatives is not healthy as they cause irritation and inflammation of the bowel and poor nutrient absorption.
The best approach is to re-educate the bowel to function properly.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|B Vitamin complex||To help nerve function||high potency formula twice daily|
|Chlorophyll||Chlorophyll is the substance responsible for the green colour in plants, it may be useful for a number of gastro-intestinal problems. Can ease chronic constipation.||as a supplement or in a “green drink” such as Greens RX.|
|Acidophilus||Restores gut flora.||1 capsule after each meal|
|Vitamin C||Helps stimulate bowel movement.||Start with 1000mg daily and increase dosage until a bowel movement is obtained. Then go back to a maintenance dose of 1000mg.|
|Linseeds||Helps stimulate bowel movement.||1 to 4 teaspoons with each meal. Take with plenty of water, ideally soak overnight before use.|
|Psyllium seeds||Helps stimulate bowel movement.||1 to 2 teaspoons with each meal and plenty of water.|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
The key to preventing constipation is healthy eating with plenty of fibre in the diet. However, too much insoluble fibre, such as raw wheat bran, can actually make the problem worse as it tends to get all gummed up inside the bowels. A more digestible and palatable option is dried fruit such as prunes, apricots and figs. These can either be taken as a snack or chopped and added to your breakfast cereal.
Drink at least 2 litres of fluid daily
Eat little and often and include sources of soluble fibre in the diet such as apples, pears, oats, root vegetables, green vegetables. Eat wholemeal bread, brown rice, nuts, seeds (particularly linseeds), wholemeal pasta.
Go to the toilet at a regular time each morning to open your bowels. Waves of peristaltic movement contract the bowel and give you the urge to open them. If you ignore it, or delay going to the toilet you may not pass a motion that day. This can set up bad habits and the onset of constipation.
Exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles can help keep bowels moving regularly. Pilates and yoga are particularly good.
Have a food intolerance test to make sure that you are not intolerant to any food which you eat regularly. Wheat in particular is often associated with food intolerance and constipation.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
- Calcarea carbonica
- Nux vomica
Suggested further reading:
- Causes and Cures
- Natural relief