Are you spending a long time in the bathroom waiting for relief? Do you suffer from abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and difficulty emptying your bowels? You may have chronic constipation and need to look at changing your life. Find out what causes constipation and what you can do to prevent it or treat it immediately and naturally.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Occasional constipation is very common, but chronic constipation can interfere with a person’s daily life. Chronic constipation may also cause excessive straining to have a bowel movement which can lead to hemorrhoids and other complications. It can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. If you are suffering from chronic constipation, it is important to rule out other serious health disorders. Check with your trusted healthcare physician for necessary tests. He or she may recommend a colonoscopy or lab tests. If here is no apparent cause for your constipation, it is important to change your lifestyle and try alternative approaches.
What Causes it?
The first step is determining what is the most likely cause of your constipation.. Most often it is due to stress and anxiety or poor diet. Discuss your unique lifestyle, health history, family medical history and symptoms, with your trusted health professional. There may be several causes of constipation, including the following:
- Poor diet
- Depression or Stress
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal lesions
- Eating Disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Hirschsprung’s disease
Why Try Natural Approaches?
If symptoms are mild, medical doctors agree that the natural approach is the best first approach to treating constipation. Commercial laxatives (Dulcolax, Exlax, Colace, Miralax, etc.), or prescription drugs, although sometimes quite effective, can cause the body to become dependent. While waiting for your doctor appointment, and before trying over-the-counter laxatives or prescription drugs, it may helpful to try some simple, safe, natural, lifestyle changes and report the effects of these changes to your doctor. Change in diet is the easiest and most effective immediate solution. However, if constipation is accompanied by rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, or other serious gastrointestinal symptoms, a person should consult with a trusted physician immediately.
Change in Diet
A change in diet is generally the first step in treating constipation. Avoid eating greasy or fried foods, foods high in fat and heavy meats. Chocolate is another food that also can lead to constipation. One natural treatment of constipation is the consumption of fiber supplements such as Citrucel or Metamucil. Try eating plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and be sure to drink plenty of water (8 glasses per day). However, too much any fiber can cause gas or bloating. Prunes and prune juice have been used successfully for many years to help relieve constipation.
Supplements and Herbs
Supplements such as fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid, are also a natural way to treat constipation. Castor oil acts as a laxative and works quickly, but should be taken in small doses. Some studies found probiotics and digestive enzymes can be effective in treating constipation. Since ancient times, flaxseed has been used as a mild laxative. You can purchase it in a ground powder form to mix in with flour (such as when making pancakes or biscuits) or as seeds to sprinkle over salads. Flaxseed, fenugreek and barley act as bulk-forming laxatives. Senna, Cascara segrada and aloe can act as stimulants. Some herbal remedies can cause cramping, so it’s always recommended to discuss all medicines, herbal remedies and supplements with your doctor first before attempting an herbal treatment. Psyllium seeds or psyllium powder has long been known as an effective fiber supplement for constipation.
Massaging can be very effective in treating constipation. Yogis have long used abdominal massage and believe that massage keeps the bowels healthy. For common constipation relief, you can administer abdominal massage to yourself by using your balled fists in a circular clockwise motion. Deep tissue massage should not be used if you suspect a more serious diagnosis, and experience abdominal pain, vomiting, or detect an unusual hard lump or suspicious tissue mass. Always consult with your trusted health practitioner.
Homeopathic remedies have been used for about 200 years. Some of the remedies most often prescribed by homeopathic doctors for constipation are alumina, sepia, nux vomica, and causticum. For more information about which remedies are right for you or your family member, consult with a homeopathic doctor.
Exercise or Physical Therapy
One of the best preventative, life-style changing treatments for constipation is exercise or physical therapy. Constipation can be a result of a sedentary life-style. If you rarely exercise and spend most of your day and evening sitting at the computer or working at a desk, and then watching television before going to sleep, it’s important to take breaks every two hours to stretch or participate in some light exercise. When adding exercise to your daily routine, start off slowly and gradually increase the exercise to more strenuous exercises. Consult with a coach, physical therapist, or family physician to determine which exercise is best for you. Stretching exercises are important before and after any workout. Water therapy and walking are often good first efforts at exercise if one is accustomed to a less active lifestyle.
Hot Pack or Heating Pad
Hot packs or heating pads applied to the stomach or abdomen can relieve pain and cramping associated with constipation. Direct heat has been known to be an effective muscle relaxant for many years, and can be beneficial for most abdominal symptoms such as: colon spasms, pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and lower back pain. Heating pads or hot packs applied to the affected area can result in relaxing the colon and offering quick relief.
Jean Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University, is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder, and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance, a 501(c)3 health education nonprofit organization. All photos used in this article are by www.pixabay.com unless otherwise noted. To find out more about our Health Educators, or to apply as a Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance writer or volunteer, visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com
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