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The key to power is knowledge...

What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Constipation

Have You Had Your Bowel Movement Today?

By: Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, Ph.D, DACBN

I have decided to break the silence and reveal the truth about constipation that most doctors don't want you to know!

You see, what's so dangerous about being constipated is that it's not an injury like a broken bone or a cut or scrap. Constipation comes on slowly. You don't notice it at first, or maybe you just brush off not going to the bathroom thinking it's nothing, and then it slowly builds and builds. You start feeling heavy, sick and bloated. You become more irritable. You start [using] pills or laxatives to get through the day,...

If you were to go to your doctor complaining about fatigue, weight gain, Hemorrhoids, gas, body odor, skin problems, headaches, indigestion, depression, even abdominal pains, you'll probably hear something along the lines of... "You are probably constipated. Here are some laxatives. Come back if that doesn't take care of it."

The Constipation Alarm

"This is a blaring alarm that your doctor may not be the person to talk to. You see, most doctors do great with general medicine. If you have broken bones, or need emergency care, medical science can do wonders! But when it comes to a condition like a clogged bowel, many doctors just don't have the training or experience to properly treat the true cause of your problem and get you relieved for good. That is why locating a trained professional colon hydrotherapist is so important. (visit www.cathysheaschool.com for a GRADUATE list)

The main problem with the kind of treatments many doctors give for conditions like constipation or colon cleansing is that they never go after the root of the problem, but focus on the symptoms, in your case; abdominal pain, not going to the bathroom in 2-4 days and other irritating symptoms. And when these treatments wear off (which they do), you'll often find they only cover up the real problem for a short time and did nothing to fix what's causing [the] constipation in the first place.

It can take years to reverse this condition [but] with diligent effort, solid professional coaching and perseverance, health and well-being [can] be restored!

Keep one thing in mind, though: don't become obsessed with how often you have a bowel movement. The norm varies from twice daily to twice weekly. Constipation is defined by the difficulty of getting stools out, not by frequency of BMs.

Constipation in Children

Article provided by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

When a child does not eat enough fiber, drink enough liquids, or get enough exercise, constipation is more likely to occur. It also happens when children ignore the urge to have a bowel movement, which they often do out of either embarrassment to use a public bathroom, fear or lack of confidence in the absence of a parent, or unwillingness to take a break from play. Sometimes constipation is caused by medicines or a disease.

Symptoms of Constipation in Children

Symptoms of constipation in children include

  • no bowel movement for several days or daily bowel movements that are hard and dry
  • cramping abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • liquid or solid, clay-like stool in the child's underwear--a sign that stool is backed up in the rectum

Constipation can make a bowel movement painful, so the child may try to prevent having one. Clenching buttocks, rocking up and down on toes, and turning red in the face are signs of trying to hold in a bowel movement.

Treatment depends on the child's age and the severity of the problem. Often eating more fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereal), drinking more liquids, and getting more exercise will solve the problem. Sometimes a child may need an enema to remove the stool or a laxative to soften it or prevent a future episode. However, laxatives [and enemas] can be dangerous to children and should be given only with a doctor's approval [and x-rays are recommended to rule out impaction].

Although constipation in children is usually harmless, it can be a sign or cause of a more serious problem. A child should see a doctor if

  • episodes of constipation last longer than 3 weeks
  • the child is unable to participate in normal activities
  • small, painful tears appear in the skin around the anus
  • a small amount of the intestinal lining is pushed out of the anus (hemorrhoids)
  • normal pushing is not enough to expel stool
  • liquid or soft stool leaks out of the anus

The Effects of Constipation

Constipation has been implicated in the cause of numerous diseases and disorders including:

Appendicitis (One of the most common abdominal emergencies here in the U.S. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 appendices are removed each year in this country), Diverticulitis/Diverticulosis, Hemorrhoids, Benign Tumors, IBS (including Spastic Colon), [Encopresis], Ulcerative Colitis, and Crohn's disease.

And that's not all...

Perhaps this doesn't surprise you. But take a look at the following categories of diseases and disorders that can also be related either directly or indirectly to the colon: Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Stroke, Varicose Veins, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism, Diabetes, Gall Stones, Kidney Stones, Obesity, Gout, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, - Especially Diabetes Mellitus, type II - "adult onset diabetes"; It has been estimated that 3-10% of the population eventually develop known diabetes and that a much greater proportion have the disease undetected.

Causes of Constipation

Article provided by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

What causes constipation?

To understand constipation, it helps to know how the colon (large intestine) works. As food moves through the colon, it absorbs water while forming waste products, or stool. Muscle contractions in the colon push the stool toward the rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum, it is solid because most of the water has been absorbed.

The hard and dry stools of constipation occur when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon's muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon too slowly.

The Common Causes of Constipation

Common causes of constipation are

  • not enough fiber in the diet
  • not enough liquids
  • lack of exercise
  • medications
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • changes in life or routine
  • abuse of laxatives
  • ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • stroke
  • problems with the colon and rectum
  • problems with intestinal function (chronic idiopathic constipation)
  • [milk protein allergy] - view The Study

Causes of Constipation: Not Enough Fiber in the Diet

The most common cause of constipation is a diet low in fiber {necessary fiber found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains} and high in fats found in cheese, eggs, and meats {bad, bad, bad}. People who eat plenty of high-fiber foods are less likely to become constipated. See, Vegan/Vegetarian.

Fiber--both soluble and insoluble--is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that the body cannot digest. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and takes on a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestines almost unchanged. The bulk and soft texture of fiber help prevent hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Americans eat an average of 5 to 14 grams of fiber daily,* short of the 20 to 35 grams recommended by the American Dietetic Association. Both children and adults eat too many refined and processed foods from which the natural fiber has been removed.

[NOTE: Be sure to add fiber a little at a time to let the body get used to it slowly. Limit high-fat, high-sugar foods and foods that have little or no fiber such as ice cream, cheese, meat, snacks like chips and pizza, and processed foods such as instant mashed potatoes or already-prepared frozen dinners.]

*National Center for Health Statistics. Dietary Intake of Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and Other Dietary Constituents: United States, 1988-94. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 11, number 245. July 2002.

Causes of Constipation: Not Enough Liquids

Liquids like water and juice add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. People who have problems with constipation should drink enough of these liquids every day, about eight 8-ounce glasses. Liquids that contain caffeine, like coffee and cola drinks, and alcohol have a dehydrating effect. See, Cut Caffeine.

Causes of Constipation: Lack of Exercise

Lack of exercise can lead to constipation, although doctors do not know precisely why. For example, constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness when one must stay in bed and cannot exercise.

Causes of Constipation: Medications

Some medications can cause constipation. A few include

  • pain medications (especially narcotics)
  • antacids that contain aluminum and calcium  
  • iron supplements
  • diuretics
  • anticonvulsants

Causes of Constipation: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Some people with IBS, also known as spastic colon, have spasms in the colon that affect bowel movements. Constipation and diarrhea often alternate, and abdominal cramping, gassiness, and bloating are other common complaints. Although IBS can produce lifelong symptoms, it is not a life-threatening condition. It often worsens with stress, but there is no specific cause or anything unusual that the doctor can see in the colon.

Causes of Constipation: Changes in Life or Routine

Changes in life such as divorce, death of a loved one, a new job, a new school, a new baby, or any number of life-altering things can disrupt the body. Stress can cause many negative reactions in the body. In addition, people often become constipated when traveling because their normal diet and daily routines are disrupted.

Causes of Constipation: Abuse of Laxatives

Laxatives usually are not necessary, [but even when necessary, should be used with caution and care] and can be habit-forming. The colon begins to rely on laxatives to bring on bowel movements. Over time, laxatives can damage nerve cells in the colon and interfere with the colon's natural ability to contract. For the same reason, regular use of enemas can also lead to a loss of normal bowel function.

Surprisingly, using certain laxatives also causes constipation. With continued use, your body becomes accustomed to the effects of the laxative, and if you stop taking it, the colon slows down and its contractions become very weak. This is called laxative dependency constipation, and it can be severe.

Too much mineral oil, another popular laxative, can lower your body’s ability to use key vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Sometimes mineral oil, if taken along with other drugs that stop blood clots (anticoagulants), can cause unwanted side effects.

Causes of Constipation: Ignoring the Urge to Have a Bowel Movement

People who ignore the urge to have a bowel movement may eventually stop feeling the urge, which can lead to constipation. Some people delay having a bowel movement because they do not want to use toilets outside the home. Others ignore the urge because of emotional stress or because they are too busy. Children may postpone having a bowel movement because of stressful toilet training or because they do not want to interrupt their play.

Causes of Constipation: Specific Diseases

Diseases that cause constipation include neurological disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, and systemic conditions that affect organ systems. These disorders can slow the movement of stool through the colon, rectum, or anus.

Several kinds of diseases can cause constipation:

Causes of Constipation: Neurological disorders

  • multiple sclerosis  
  • chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
  • spinal cord injuries

Causes of Constipation: Metabolic and endocrine conditions

  • diabetes
  • underactive or overactive thyroid gland
  • uremia
  • hypercalcemia

Causes of Constipation: Systemic disorders

  • amyloidosis
  • lupus
  • scleroderma

Causes of Constipation: Problems with the Colon and Rectum

Intestinal obstruction, scar tissue (adhesions), diverticulosis, tumors, colorectal stricture, Hirschsprung's disease, or cancer can compress, squeeze, or narrow the intestine and rectum and cause constipation.

Causes of Constipation: Problems with Intestinal Function (Chronic Idiopathic Constipation)

Some people have chronic constipation that does not respond to standard treatment. This rare condition, known as idiopathic (of unknown origin) chronic constipation may be related to problems with intestinal function such as problems with hormonal control or with nerves and muscles in the colon, rectum, or anus. Functional constipation occurs in both children and adults and is most common in women.

Colonic inertia and delayed transit are two types of functional constipation caused by decreased muscle activity in the colon. These syndromes may affect the entire colon or may be confined to the lower or sigmoid colon.

Functional constipation that stems from abnormalities in the structure of the anus and rectum is known as anorectal dysfunction, or anismus. These abnormalities result in an inability to relax the rectal and anal muscles that allow stool to exit.

Diet For Constipation

Fighting Constipation with Good Nutrition and a Good Diet

When it comes to constipation, prevention is always better than suffering from the painful symptoms of an impacted bowel. One of the best ways to avoid problems with constipation is to eat a healthy diet.

An intestine-friendly diet can help keep stool soft and easy to pass. It can also help you have a regular schedule for bowel movements.

Here are some simple solutions for making your diet colon-friendly:

The Diet for Constipation Sufferers

Drink lots of water.

One of the main causes of constipation is a lack of hydration. You should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day to promote a healthy bowel. Adding lots of water is always good in the diet for constipation sufferers.

Eat your fruits and vegetables.

It may seem like common sense, but most people don’t get enough of these nutritional power foods. Five servings of fruits and vegetables each day can improve your bowel habits.

You should have at least 3 servings of vegetables every day and at least 2 servings of fruit. Adding fruits and vegetables introduces fiber to your diet. Fiber is instrumental in helping the bowels move regularly with ease.

Increase the number of whole grains that you eat.

What is a whole grain? This is a grain that is unrefined. Things made with whole-wheat flour contain whole grain, but things made with white flour don’t. Whole grains are great sources for dietary fiber.

You should have 6-11 servings of whole grains each day. This may seem like too much, but serving sizes aren’t that large. A sandwich made with 2 slices of whole wheat bread contains 2 servings of whole grains.

Good sources of whole grains include oatmeal, whole grain rice, whole grain cereals, and whole-wheat pasta.

If you prefer the taste of processed flours, you can ease yourself into whole grains. For example, mix whole wheat pasta with white pasta. You’ll increase your fiber intake and keep some of the taste that you love.

One source of dietary fiber that is extremely helpful for keeping a healthy bowel is flaxseed. Adding about a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your diet can improve your regularity and ease of bowel movements.

Flaxseed can be added to yogurt, cereal, sauces, or anything that you choose. Many people find the nutty flavor of flaxseed an excellent compliment to their diet.

Limit your consumption of meat.

Meat is difficult for the body to process. You don’t have to completely eliminate it, but limiting it is a good idea. You should have 2-3 servings of protein each day.

Remember, one serving of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand. You can also use some plant sources to provide your protein needs. Choices such as nuts and soy products are good sources of protein and can be good in the diet for constipation sufferers.

For further information visit. AboutConstipation.org

This site does not replace the need for specific advice from your doctor. This site is for informational purposes only.