Your first instinct when you're in this predicament might be to reach for a laxative. But the chances are you don't need one.The best way to become regular again is simply to eat more fibre - 20g to 35g a day. Fibre absorbs water and makes stools softer and bulkier; which speeds the products of digestion through your system.To cope with all that fibre the body needs more fluids too. And don't forget about exercise, which can also help to keep things moving. Do all three things and everything will begin to work smoothly once more...
Fix it with fibre
Start your day with a high-fibre bran cereal. Some brands contain as much as 15g of insoluble fibre per serving. This is the fibre that adds bulk, spurring the body to move it through the digestive tract more quickly. A word of advice: if you are not used to eating this much fibre, start with a smaller serving â€” say, half-and-half bran and cornflakes, served with skimmed milk or low-fat yoghurt - then work your way up. Otherwise you may experience wind, bloating and stomach cramps.
Fill up on cooked dried beans, prunes, pears, figs, oats and nuts. All are good sources of soluble fibre, the kind that turns to gel in the intestines and helps to soften the stool.
Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed psyllium seeds (also known as ispaghula) into a cup of hot water. Let it infuse for 2 hours, add lemon and honey to taste, then drink. Psyllium adds bulk and is the main ingredient in many over-the-counter bulk forming laxatives.You'll find the seeds in most pharmacies and health-food shops. You can also try this with flax seeds (linseed).
Flax seeds are high in fibre and also contain omega-3 fats, known to be beneficial to the heart and circulatory system. Have a tablespoon of the ground seeds, which are soid in health-food shops, two or three times a day. Some people like the taste of flax seed (it faintly resembles walnuts). If you don't, you can stir it into your breakfast cereal, add it to stewed apple or blend it into a fruit smoothie. Or grind the seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder, keep the ground seeds in the fridge and sprinkle half a teaspoon into your orange juice.
As you increase your intake of fibre, also be sure to drink lots of water - at least eight 250ml glasses a day. Fibre is extremely absorbent, and if you don't drink enough, your stools rnay become small, hard and painful to pass.
Have a hot cup to loosen up
Have a morning cup of coffee. If you're a coffee drinker, you may have already discovered that the caffeine in coffee has a bowel-loosening effect. It induces a bowel movement by stimulating the colon. Just don't drink too rnuch of it â€” caffeine is also diuretic and will eliminate fluid from your body.
If you don't like coffee, try any other hot drink first thing in the morning. Herbal or decaffeinated tea or a cup of hot water with a little lemon juice or honey may stimulate the colon as well. (Lemon juice is a natural laxative.)
Dandelion tea, which has a mild laxative effect, may also help bowel movements to become regular again. Steep a tea-spoon of dried root in a cup of boiling water and drink 1 cup three times a day.You'll find dried dandelion root in health-food shops.
Wrinkled fruit gets things moving
The humble prune is one of the oldest home remedies for constipation. It's high in fibre (roughly 1g per prune). Also, prunes contain a compound called dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which stimulates the intestinal contractions that make you want to go.
If you don't like prunes then try chewing raisins.They, too, are high in fibre and contain tartaric acid, which has a laxative effect. In one study in which people ate a small box of raisins a day, doctors found that it took half the time for digested food to make it through the digestive tract.
Get up and go
Get regular exercise. There's good reason for a morning walk being known as a daily constitutional: when you move your body, you also help to move food through your bowel more quickly. Aim for a daily walk at the very least.
Put the pressure on
Practitioners of acupressure say that the technique can help to stimulate your digestion and, therefore, your bowels. Apply pressure with your thumb and forefinger to the fleshy web between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Do this for two minutes every day while the problem persists. (Alert This technique should not be used in pregnancy.)
The herb cascara sagrada is so effective that it is even added to several over-the-counter laxatives. It's known as a 'stimulant laxative' because it stimulates the intestinal tract. The herb comes in a variety of forms and, because it is so powerful, and because it also interacts with numerous medicines, it should be used only under medical supervision. In any case, don't take it for more than eight to ten days; it can make your body lose too much water, potassium and salt â€” and with regular use, you can become dependent on it. (Alert Do not use if you have any other abdominal condition. Drink plenty of water while taking it. Cascara must not be used by pregnant women or children.)
If other remedies fail, try the mother of all natural laxatives, senna. It should work in about 8 hours, so most people take it before bedtime.Take 20 to 40 drops of the tincture at night, but don't plan on making it a long-term cure.With repeated use, senna can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea. As with cascara sagrada, long-term use can cause dependency.
For a gentler alternative, use a glycerol suppository, available over-the-counter from pharmacies. Again, don't rely on this method or your constipation could end up worse than it was in the first place.
Never ignore nature's call. If you do, you're asking for a case of constipation.
Never try to force a bowel movement. You may give yourself haemorrhoids (piles) or anal fissures.These not only hurt, they aggravate constipation because they narrow the anal opening. Also, straining on the toilet can strain your heart: it reduces your heart rate and pushes up blood pressure and can sometimes even cause a sudden heart attack.
Should l call the doctor?
Although bothersome, constipation is usually not grave. However, it can sometimes signal a serious condition such as colorectal cancer or bowel obstruction.Tell your doctor if it lasts two weeks or more, or if you see blood in your stool, or if constipation is accompanied by fever, severe abdomirial pain, or weight loss, or if constipation alternates with diarrhoea. If you've recently started a new medication that seems to be causing constipation, you need to talk to your doctor. Antihistamines, diuretics, blood-pressure drugs, some tranquillizers, codeine or morphine-based painkillers, calcium supplements, certain antidepressants and antacids that contain calcium or aluminium can all cause constipation.
You hear nature's call,and you want to answer, desperately. But your body won't respond - or when it does, your stools are hard, dry and difficult or painful to pass.The most common reason bowels go on strike is because the body is lacking In dietary fibre or water. Another common cause is ignoring the 'call to stool' - or being too busy to go, especially if you're rushing out of the house in the morning - better to get up 10 minutes earlier. Constipation may also be due to lack of exercise, using laxatives too often, and health conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, depression or irritable bowel syndrome. Certain prescription or over-the-counter medications may be to blame as well.