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Natural and Herbal Remedies for Constipation

This may be an uncomfortable topic for some, but it is one of great importance. If your body is not eliminating waste effectively, the build up of toxins can impair the immune system, making you sick. It will also cause unnecessary weight gain as the fecal matter collects in your colon and intestines.

Constipation is generally defined as the passing of hard, dry stools less than three times a week. It can make you feel uncomfortable and bloated and cause straining during bowel movements. Constipation can affect everyone from time to time. In general, your body should be eliminating several hours after each meal that you eat. If you eat three times a day you should be eliminating at least three times a day. If this is not the case, you could be carrying excess fecal material around, impacting overall health.

Remedies for Constipation:

  • Fluids – Proper hydration is the key to many ailments that can attack the body, including constipation. In general, we should drink at least sixty-four ounces (1/2 gallon) of water daily. A better guideline for adults is to take your weight in pounds and divide it in half to find the number of ounces of water you should drink. Example: A person weighting 150 pounds should drink a minimum of 75 ounces (1/2 gallon plus an additional 11 ounces). Also watch how much cola, coffee, and alcohol you drink. Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you.
  • Fiber – Eating foods high in fiber is your second line of defense. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools, making them easier to pass. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try wheat bran, oat bran, brown rice, or whole-grain bread. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a jelly-like substance in the intestines. Prunes and figs have soluble fiber and can be added to breakfast or eaten as a snack. Another fiber option is to sprinkle a teaspoon of ground flaxseed over any meal. You can find this in most grocery stores or a health food store. You can also take fiber supplements, such as Metamucil. It is important to add fiber to your diet gradually to avoid excess gas and bloating. Also be sure to drink plenty of water when adding more fiber.
  • Herbs and Supplements – Many herbs can be taken as laxatives, either in capsules or as a tea. There are also some other supplements:
    • Cascara sagrada
    • Rhubarb
    • Aloe
    • Senna
    • Buckthorn
    • Barberry
    • Bladderwrack
    • Cayenne
    • Dandelion
    • Goldenseal
    • He Shou Wu
    • Milk Thistle
    • Red Raspberry
    • Slippery Elm
    • Triphala
    • Magnesium
    • Honey

Laxatives should not be taken longer than a week unless under medical supervision. Prolonged use could cause bowels to lose the ability to move on their own. This has also been linked to chronic diarrhea, muscle weakness due to potassium depletion, kidney or liver impairment, and dangerous, irregular heartbeat.

  • Probiotics – Lactobacillus acidophilus and other organisms live naturally in the digestive system. They promote health by suppressing growth of harmful bacteria, improve immune functions, enhance the protective barrier of the digestive tract and help to produce vitamin K.
  • Biofeedback – There are some who say that this therapy can be as effective in those with severe pelvic dysfunction due to obesity, enlarged prostate, or childbirth. Therapists teach coordination of the muscles used to defecate. Some studies show improved symptoms in approximately 70 percent of those in the trials.
  • Acupressure – a traditional healing practice that involves applying finger pressure to specific pressure points on the body.
  • Food Remedies – Many things in your kitchen already may help:
    • Molasses – 1 tablespoon at bedtime
    • Cabbage water – ½ cup, twice daily
    • Mango
    • Grapes and milk – boil ten to twelve grapes in one cup of milk. Let it cool to drinkable temperature. Drink the milk and then eat the grapes, chewing thoroughly. This should be done at bedtime for best results.
    • ½ cup of orange juice mixed with ½ cup of olive oil – drink all of it. If pregnant, this may bring on contractions.
    • Four ounces of each carrot and spinach juice mixed – drink all of it. Has been known to work immediately.
    • Flaxseed – one teaspoon mixed with one cup of water before each meal.
  • Other Tips
    • Exercise – Participate in regular, physical activity an hour a day, at least three days a week. Not getting plenty of exercise can cause constipation. Take a walk; low impact exercise and costs nothing but a little time. Walking two to three miles after eating dinner helps kick start digestion.
    • Don’t wait – The longer you put off the urge to defecate, the more water is absorbed from the stool, making it harder and harder to eliminate.
    • Proper chewing – It is said that chewing each bite thirty-two times – once for each tooth we should have – helps the digestive acids work better

Pregnancy Warnings:

  • Laxative tablets ate not recommended as they may start contractions and/or cause dehydration.
  • Mineral oils should not be used, as there is marked reduction of nutrient absorption.
  • Iron supplements have been known to increase risk of constipation. Discuss with your health care provider – you may want to take smaller doses throughout the day or stop altogether.

As always, before starting any new herb or other type of therapies, talk to your healthcare provider!  Here’s to good health for ALL!

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