A Problem No One Wants to Discuss
Constipation is a topic few really wish to discuss because it’s so personal! However, it affects almost everyone at some point. Statistics show that more than 4 million Americans, especially women and adults age 65 or older, contend with frequent constipation. It isn’t a disease but a condition that can make a person both physically and mentally ill.
A person with normal bowel movements has one firm, medium brown movement of at least 1-1 1/2 inches in diameter and approximately 8-12 inches in length per day. It might be difficult to discuss this subject, but doing so is very necessary for good health, especially for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, or an autoimmune disease. Why, you may ask?
When a person is constipated, waste products back up in the intestinal system, preventing absorption of essential nutrients from food. This lack of proper nutrition contributes to a sluggish production of “feel good” chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and norepinephrine. If the constipation is severe or chronic, toxins build up and filter back into the body, causing depression, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, or panic attacks. If toxins build up enough, physical ailments can arise, including arthritis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune deficiencies. Since no two people are alike, the symptoms of constipation are somewhat different for each person. Therefore, it is important to learn to recognize the symptoms in your body and in your senior loved ones.
- Three or fewer stools per week
- Difficulty having bowel movements due to hard, dry, small stool
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swollen, potentially painful abdomen
Causes of Constipation:
- Medications such as pain killers, antidepressants and iron supplements
- Poor diet
- Inadequate intake of water or non-dehydrating fluids
- Inadequate consumption of dietary fibers from vegetables, whole grains, fruits and other soluble fibers
- Food allergies
- Lack of regular exercise, mobility, or physical activity
- Overuse of laxatives
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement due to pain from hemorrhoids
- Fecal impaction
- Colon cancer
Ways to Relieve Constipation
- Increase the intake of fiber by eating a minimum of five servings of high fiber fruits and vegetables every day, including carrots, kale, collards, apples, oranges, berries, and beans.
- Take a soluble fiber supplement daily in either pill or powder form.
- Drink a glass of pure vegetable or fruit juice.
- Caution: Fiber causes gas! If flatulence frequently occurs, take Beano before eating.
Water or Non-Dehydrating Liquids
- Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water, herbal tea, unsweetened juice, or other beverage of choice each day.
- Caution: Coffee and sodas dehydrate the body. This causes swelling in the legs and other extremities, a lack of proper fluids in the intestinal system, and dry stool.
- Avoid processed and prepackaged foods.
- Eat whole foods such as lean chicken or fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains.
- Caution: Go easy on the cheese and dairy.
- Take a well rounded digestive enzyme before each meal to aid digestion and assimilation.
- Take probiotics (friendly bacteria) to aid digestion and keep waste from backing up in the colon.
- Take magnesium powder or liquid as a natural laxative to get things moving in the intestines and to soften hard stool. Magnesium can relieve constipation without causing dependency.
- Walk 3-5 times a week for a minimum of 15-30 minutes each time.
- Swim or participate in another non-weight bearing exercise regularly each week.