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What is Constipation?

What is Constipation?

Regular People are Happy People

Constipation is one of the most common digesting complaints in our modern world –it affects up to 15% of the population at any one time – but what is it and how can we prevent it?

Bowl movements are based on numerous influences. These range from our diet to the fibre content in our food, how much water we consume and the metabolism of individuals, which means that you may not make a bowel movement every day.

As long as you are not going for days on end without a bowel movement you should feel quite happy to march to the tune of your own body.

Frenetic lifestyles lead to little time for small pleasures as well as bodily needs, we tend to get anxious about passing a motion and the more anxious the worse the problem becomes.

Being rushed and stressed will soon play havoc on our digestive systems, causing tension in the whole arrangement – especially our bowels and with that tension come discontent and discomfort, bloating and flatulence.

Our intestines contain billions of healthy bacteria, and when an imbalance occurs, known as dysbiosis, one of the results can be constipation, and as a result probiotics can play a key role in relieving constipation.

Some Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species enhance bowel regularity and mucous secretion by converting bound bile salts into free bile salts, which cause more water to be pulled into the colon, softening the stool and aiding its elimination.

The following strains have shown their health benefits for constipation in clinical trials. Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium longum,   Lactobacillus plantarum.                                                

Probiotics for constipation in babies, infants, and children which are also useful in adults are; Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus casei shirota.                                                                                    

Lifestyle changes, starting with the diet, can be the first step in the right direction for alleviating constipation.

  • Drinking adequate water so as to remain well hydrated.
  • Increasing your daily fibre intake, bulking agents such as wheat bran, fax seed, and muesli can be included in your daily intake, and increasing your daily intake of fibre rich raw salad as well as fruit and vegetables will ensure that stools are a lot softer and much easier to pass.
  • Take a daily probiotic.
  • Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods.
  • Up your exercise regime – walking, swimming and running all help.
  • Avoid stressful situations and choose a private time of the day to go to the toilet away from noise and try to stick to a routine.
  • If you think constipation is caused from Certain chronic medication and supplements may be causing constipation, if you are not sure ask your pharmacist or doctor.

Chronic constipation is a result of slow stool time, or functional defecation disorder (dyssynergic defecation) or a combination of these.

With slow-transit constipation there is a delay in the transit of stools through the colon; whereas with dyssenergic or outlet obstruction (also referred to as pelvic floor dyssenergy) is the inability or difficulty in expelling stools.

In pelvic floor dysfunction the muscles in the lower pelvis do not work properly and a third kind of constipation then rears its ugly head in the form of IBS where constipation will alternate with diarrhoea.

Short-term effects of constipation include bloating, abdominal pain.

Long-term chronic, constipation may result in, internal or external hemorrhoids, anal fissures (cracks in the skin around the anus as a result of hard stool stretching the anal sphincter too far), rectal prolapsed (the rectum becomes overstretched due to the accumulation of large amounts of stool, and it then loses its ability to contract to its former size when the stool is eliminated) and Diverticulitis (the pressure of accumulated stool causing pouches to form in weak spots along the colon.)

If you suffer from chronic constipation ask your pharmacist or medical practitioner to recommend a suitable solution for you, this may include a laxative. Laxatives taken long term may have an effect on other chronic medications being taken.


Bulk-forming laxatives:

  • These laxatives swell in the intestines and soften the stool which makes it easier to pass – they generally work within a 12-hour time frame.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives are made from fibre and are perfectly safe to use long-term and often include psyllium, methylcellulose and polycarbophil.

Osmotic laxatives:

  • These increase the water content within the intestines which makes stool soft and easy to pass.
  • They are fast-acting and can cause loss of fluids and electrolytes.
  • Should not be taken long-term.

BuStimulant Laxatives:

  • These laxatives cause the muscles of the intestine to contract, moving the stool along, for short-term use as they can cause dehydration and imbalance of the electrolytes in the body.
  • These laxatives include castor oil, Senna, Senokot, Dulcolax, Correctol and Ex-Lax.

Lubricant Laxatives:

  • These laxatives work by coating the stool and assisting the movement.
  • Perhaps the most common ingredient of Lubricant Laxatives is mineral oils.

Stool Softeners:

  • Stool softeners are laxatives that are commonly prescribed by medical practitioners after surgery.
  • They are often used in conjunction with stimulant laxatives.

Suppositories and enemas are also used; this is usually when an immediate response is necessary. Enemas should not be used for children unless specifically prescribed by a medical practitioner.

Herbs to get you happy and back on track:

Psyllium Husk (Platago Afra):

  • Psyllium Husk is a harmless, natural bulking and mild laxative which is brilliant for the treatment of chronic constipation.
  • Results in a soft, controllable stool because of the softening and lubricating action of the tiny husks.
  • Psyllium Husk is also helpful for those individuals that suffer from IBS, diarrhoea and inflammatory gastro-intestinal problems as these are not only comforting, but build soft bulk and retain water as well as backing-up peristalsis.

Dandelion Root (Taraxecum Officinale):

  • Dandelions are packed with potassium and are good for treating dyspepsia and constipation and are brilliant for sluggish bowels; an excellent detoxifying agent for the bowel.

Senna (Cassia Angustiflora)

  • Senna seeds and pods are used for medicinal purposes, offering calm, smoothing effect with antibacterial properties.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus Rubra)

  • The herb is used to ease and sooth the entire digestive tract, killing off harmful bacteria.
  • Slippery Elm is also a brilliant remedy for heartburn, bloating, ulceration of the stomach and duodenum.
  • Slippery Elm is excellent for diarrhoea and constipation.

If constipation is causing pain it is time to consult your medical practitioner.

If you are pregnant it is always advisable to discuss taking any type of medication with your medical practitioner or gynaecologist.

Although laxatives can be a good solution for immediate relief from constipation, one should avoid long term use and rather make healthy lifestyle changes to overcome constipation.

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