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Fecal Incontinence

Constipation: Keeping Your Bowels Moving Smoothly

What is constipation?

Constipation is when you have trouble having bowel movements. Your stools may be very hard, making them so difficult to pass that you have to strain. Or you may feel like you still need to have a bowel movement even after you've had one.

Many are not aware that constipation can lead to other symptoms, like fatigue, headaches and acne. Constipation is a condition caused by poor digestive habits and a diet loaded with processed foods, especially those made with white flour

How often should I have a bowel movement?

Not everyone has bowel movements once a day.  A normal range is generally 3 times a day to 3 times a week. You may be getting constipated if you begin to have bowel movements much less often than you usually do.

Constipation is a serious problem in this country, but nobody talks about it. Chances are you're constipated and you don't even know it. Most people think as long as they move their bowels on a regular basis without any strain that everything is fine. But that's simply not the case. The human digestive system is designed so that as new food comes in the old waste should move out--usually 30-45 minutes after a meal. So if you eat 3 times a day, ideally you should move your bowels three times per day--simple concept, yet not very common in our processed food society. What's more common is one bowel movement every other day. That means if you eat six meals in two days and have one bowel movement, you are eliminating the waste of one meal and storing the waste of five meals! That's a lot of waste! And where does it all go? It stays inside the body creating a perfect environment for parasites to thrive in. Not to mention that all that waste can add up and add extra, unwanted pounds to the scale.

The best way to eliminate waste is to stop doing the things that caused you to accumulate it in the first place--eliminating white flour is a great start!

Tips on preventing constipation

  • Don't resist the urge to have a bowel movement.

  • Set aside time to have a bowel movement. A good time may be after breakfast or any other meal.

  • Eat more fiber.

  • Drink plenty of fluids - at least 8 glasses a day. Fluids can include water, juices, soup, tea and other drinks.

  • Don't take laxatives too often.

  • Exercise or move around more.

What causes constipation?

As the food you eat passes through your digestive tract, your body takes nutrients and water from the food. This process creates a stool, which is moved through your intestines with muscle contractions (squeezing motions).

A number of things can affect this process. These include not drinking enough fluids, not being active enough, not eating enough fiber, taking certain drugs, not going to the bathroom when you have the urge to have a bowel movement and regularly using laxatives. Any of these things can cause the stools to move more slowly through your intestines, leading to constipation.

How is constipation treated?

The main thing in treating constipation is to be sure you're eating enough fiber and drinking enough fluids. This helps your stools move through your intestines by increasing the bulk of your stools and making your stools softer. Increasing how much you exercise will also help.

Talk to your family doctor if you notice any blood in your stools, if constipation is new and unusual for you, if you're constipated for 3 weeks or more, or if you're in pain.

What should I eat?

Eat plenty of fiber. Two to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day is ideal. Add extra fiber to your diet by eating cereals that contain bran or by adding bran as a topping on your fruit or cereal.

Whole grains are rich in fiber, which gives bulk to the stool and also acts like a broom to help sweep waste out of the colon. In the process of turning whole wheat into white flour, all of the fiber is removed.

If you are adding fiber to your diet, start slowly and gradually increase the amount. This will help reduce gas and bloating. Make sure to drink plenty of water too.

Foods rich in fiber

  • Unprocessed wheat bran

  • Unrefined breakfast cereals

  • Whole wheat and rye flours

  • Grainy breads, such as whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel

  • Fresh fruits

  • Dried fruits, such as prunes, apricots and figs

  • Vegetables

  • Legumes, such as chickpeas, baked beans and lima beans

4 Steps to Replace White Flour with Whole Grains

  • STEP 1: Limit white flour products to 3 times per week

    Use this step to help you pay attention to the amount of processed starches that you do eat and how they make you feel. Get in the habit of reading labels, be aware of products made with "enriched" flour. You'll soon discover that white flour is in practically all commercial foods. When you do eat white flour products, remember to eat them as part of a balanced meal. Don't eat starches by themselves, but eat them with protein and good fats.

  • STEP 2: Replace white bread/pasta with whole grain bread and whole grain pasta

    This step will help you become a serious label reader. Do your best to avoid breads and pasta made with "enriched" flour. You'll notice that it is difficult to find a true whole grain bread at the grocery store. The few brands that are available unfortunately add undesirable ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup. It is best to purchase quality whole grain bread from a health food store. Use the chart below to help you with this step.

  • STEP 3: Replace all other flour products with whole grains

    This step will help you to clean all the white flour out of your cupboards and stock them with whole grain alternatives. Choose products made with organic whole grains when possible--sprouted grains are best. Also remember to balance and limit the grains in your diet. Although products made with whole grain flour are a good source of fiber, unfortunately they begin to lose their nutritional value within days after they have been ground. If you are baking with whole grains, it is best to grind your own whole grain flour and consume it within 3-6 days.

  • STEP 4: (Advanced) Properly prepare your grains

    All grains, nuts, and seeds contain phytic acid, an organic acid that blocks the absorption of minerals. Grains also contain enzyme inhibitors and irritating compounds that can inhibit digestion. Traditionally, grains were properly prepared by soaking and sprouting. Not only does this practice neutralize the negative effects of phytic acid, but it also increases the nutritional value of the grain. Proper preparation is especially important for breakfast cereals.

Should I use laxatives?

Laxatives should usually be avoided. They aren't meant for long-term use. An exception to this is bulk-forming laxatives.

Bulk-forming laxatives work naturally to add bulk and water to your stools so that they can pass more easily through your intestines. Bulk-forming laxatives can be used every day.

They include oat bran, psyllium (one brand: Metamucil), polycarbophil (one brand: FiberCon) and methylcellulose (one brand: Citrucel).

How are bulk-forming laxatives used?

You must use bulk-forming laxatives daily for them to work. Follow the directions on the label. Start slowly and drink plenty of fluids. Gradually increase how much you use every 3 to 5 days (as you get used to it) until you get the effect you want.

You can help bulk-forming laxatives taste better by mixing them with fruit juice.

Do bulk-forming laxatives have side effects?

You may notice some bloating, gas or cramping at first, especially if you start taking too much or increase the amount you're using too quickly. These symptoms should go away in a few weeks or less.

Are mineral oil and castor oil good laxatives?

These laxatives should generally be used only when your doctor recommends them, such as if you've just had surgery and shouldn't strain to have a bowel movement.

While both mineral oil and castor oil have their place as laxatives, they shouldn't be used regularly. If mineral oil is used regularly, it can cause deficiencies of vitamins A, D, E and K. Castor oil can lead to serious problems if it's used regularly.

Should I try enemas?

Enemas aren't usually needed. Many people use enemas too much. It's better to let your body work more naturally.

What if I've been using enemas or laxatives for a long time?

You may have to retrain your body to go without laxatives or enemas if you've been using them for a long time. This means eating plenty of fiber and using a bulk-forming laxative, drinking plenty of water, exercising and learning to give yourself time to have a bowel movement.

If you've used laxatives and enemas for a long time, your doctor may suggest that you wean yourself off of them slowly to give your system a chance to return to normal.

Be patient - it may take many months for your bowels to get back to normal if you've been using laxatives or enemas regularly. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have.

The above opinionated views and information serves to educated and informed consumer .  The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. .It should not replaced professional advise and consultation.  A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions 

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