Constipation

by John G. Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac. edited by Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

Table of Contents
Introduction
General Recommendations
Useful Foods for Constipation
Foods to Avoid
The Question of Laxatives
References

INTRODUCTION
• Barbara and I get very good results treating constipation with the combination of craniosacral acupuncture, hara visceral work, herbs and dietary recommendations.

• Constipation results when waste material moves too slowly through the large intestine, resulting in infrequent and/or painful elimination.

• It is important that the bowels move on a daily basis. The colon is a holding tank for waste matter that should be removed within eighteen to twenty-four hours. Harmful toxins can form after this period.

• In most cases constipation arises from insufficient amounts of fiber and fluids in the diet. Other causative factors include inadequate exercise, advanced age, a heavy consumption of junk food, certain drugs and diseases such as diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, hernia, bowel cancer, indigestion, obesity, headaches, insomnia and gas. Constipation may also occur in the later stages of pregnancy.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
• In general a diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables combined with nonstressful exercise are the best solutions to constipation.

• The more fiber contained in the diet from fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains the softer and larger the amount of feces that will pass.

• Drink plenty of water. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, whether you are thirsty or not.

• Eat smaller portions — no large, heavy meals.

• Get some exercise. Physical activity speeds the movement of waste through the intestines.

USEFUL FOODS FOR CONSTIPATION
Foods which lubricate the intestines:
• Spinach, bananas, sesame seed oil, honey, pears, prunes, peaches, apples, apricots, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, alfalfa sprouts,, soy products, carrots, cauliflower, beets, okra, seaweed

Foods which promote bowel movements:
• Cabbage, papaya, peas, black sesame seed, coconut, sweet potato, asparagus, figs, castor oil, bran from oats, wheat or rice.

Demulcent herbs:
• Psyllium seeds, flaxseed oil, marshmallow root, fenugreek seed, licorice root. Flaxseed oil or freshly ground flaxseeds help to soften stools. (Demulcent herbs are rich in mucilage and soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue. They reduce irritation down the whole length of the bowel.)

• Ground psyllium seeds are an excellent concentrated source of fiber. Psyllium is also useful in irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon and hemorrhoids. LDL cholesterol can be lowered up to 20 percent with psyllium. Be sure to take psyllium with plenty of water.

• Consume plenty of foods that are high in pectin, such as apples, carrots, beets, bananas, cabbage, citrus fruits, dried peas and okra.

• Aloe vera has a healing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract and aids in forming soft stools. Drink 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice in the morning and at night.

Natural Laxatives:
• Prunes and figs are the best natural laxatives

• Herbs that function as laxatives are alfalfa, dandelion (weak), senna leaf and dong quai for chronic cases. Coffee is a natural laxative but may constipate in certain individuals who drink too much.

Flora enhancing foods
• Acidophilus, sauerkraut, miso, dairy, yogurt, kefir.

Magnesium supplementation:
• Supplementation of magnesium at 600-900 mg a day helps to relieve constipation by drawing water into the contents of the large intestine and by relaxing irritated, constricted intestinal walls. Food sources include: apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, green leafy vegetables, kelp, lemon, lima beans, millet, peaches, soybeans, tofu, watercress, wheat and whole grains. Herbal sources include: alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, dandelion, fennel seed, lemongrass and peppermint.

FOODS TO AVOID
• Avoid all products with baking soda or baking powder, alcohol, tea, yeasted breads, refined white foods, e.g., white flour, white sugar, white rice.
• Milk and cheese cause constipation in some people.
• Constipation may be a side effect of iron supplementation.
• Check your medicine cabinet for drugs that cause constipation. Diuretics, painkillers, tranquilizers, antidepressants, antihistamines, narcotics and decongestants are potential culprits

THE QUESTION OF LAXATIVES
• Too frequent use of laxatives such as Ex-Lax and Dulcolax can result in loss of electrolytes (especially potassium) and dehydration, and the colon may become unable to contract on its own.

REFERENCES
Balch, James R, M.D., and Balch, Phyllis A, C.N.C., Description for Nutritional Healing Garden City Park: Avery Publishing Group, 1997
Hudson, Tori, N.D., Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Los Angeles: Keats Publishing, 1999
Kirschmann, Gayla J., and Kirschmann, John D., Nutrition Almanac, New York; McGraw-Hill 1996
Mindell, Earl, RPh., Ph.D. & Hopkins, Virginia, Prescription Alternatives, New Canaan, CT: Keats Publ, 1998
Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1993
Werbach, Melvyn R., M.D, Nutritional Influences on Illness, Tarzana: Third Line Press, 1996

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Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.

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