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How to Avoid Constipation

written by: Tania Cowling • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/13/2011

Constipation is a troublesome problem for many people. If you need some guidelines on how to avoid constipation and some home remedies, this article may be helpful.

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    What is Constipation?

    How many bowel movements a person has varies a great deal. One may have several stools a day to several a week, however if you are not having a daily bowel movement and are becoming uncomfortable, you may be constipated. By definition, constipation is the difficulty in passing stools such as hard, dry stools as a result of slow moving food through the large intestine. The timing may also be infrequent.

    So you ask, how to avoid constipation? There are many home remedies that can clear up constipation and prevent it with simple and healthy protocols. Below are some ideas to help in this matter.

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    Drink Plenty of H2O

    Glass 006 When you are trying to prevent constipation, drinking water is of upmost importance. Drinking at least 6-8 eight-ounce glasses of water is imperative, especially when you are eating a lot of fiber or taking fiber supplements. Consuming hot water works better than cold because it stimulates peristalsis (the squeezing muscular action that pushes stool through the digestive tract). Keep drinking water whether you are thirsty or not and you may see a difference in your bathroom experience.

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    The Importance of Fiber

    Fiber is important in a person's diet to help avoid constipation. Fiber mixed with water (soluble fiber) helps to soften the stools, where insoluble fiber passes through the body unchanged but adds bulk to the stools, which in turn helps to stimulate a bowel movement. Try to eat high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits, raw green leafy vegetables, bran and brown rice often. Think about adding cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas and whole grains. Foods that contain a large amount of soluble fiber include barley, oats and fruits like apples, apricots, bananas and prunes. If you can't consume enough of these fiber-rich foods, you may want to incorporate a fiber supplement like psyllium seed or flaxseed (either P6180146 ground or oil). There are many over-the-counter fiber supplements that you can buy, naming Metamucil or Citrucel as examples.

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    Exercise is Good for the Gut

    Exercise not only helps the body with its heart-pumping action but is a good stress-buster as well. Emotional stress can be a cause of constipation as it makes the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls intestinal peristalsis) less effective. Thirty to sixty minutes of good aerobic exercise three to five times a week is helpful.

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    Develop a Regular Bathroom Routine

    It's always best to establish a consistent time for elimination. If you get into the habit of spending 5-10 minutes on the toilet, whether you feel the urge or not, eventually trains the body to make this a bathroom habit. This may sound dumb at first, but after you have established an elimination time, sometimes this is a way to eliminate constipation. Never ignore the call of nature!

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    Try a Little Citrus

    IMG 6479 Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that building up chi (the life energy of the body) helps to move stagnant chi and relieves constipation. One method is to drink hot water with a piece of citrus peel inside the cup. This is supposed to stimulate a bowel movement. You can also get the benefit of citrus without the peel by squeezing lemon juice into an 8-ounce glass of warm water and drink this first thing in the morning to help elimination.

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    The Bottom Line...

    Yes, how to avoid constipation is a common question of many people. Sure there are stool softeners, suppositories and laxatives, however going natural is best. Think about consuming prune juice, adding magnesium supplements and drinking aloe vera gel. Using some of the ideas above will help with constipation now and hopefully will train the body to overcome this uncomfortable malady.

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    References

    "Citrus Peels" - Alternative Cures by Bill Gottlieb (page 175) [Rodale Press, 2000]

    "Home Remedy for Constipation" - http://www.ayurvedic-medicines.com/home-remedies/constipation.html

    "Constipation" - University of Maryland Medical Center - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/constipation-000041.htm

    "Constipation Guidelines" - Cedars-Sinai Medical Center - www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and.../Chronic-Constipation.pdf

    Photo Credits:

    • Glass of water by roganjosh - http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/219596
    • Fiber by mconnors - http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/5400
    • Lemon by dmscs - http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/162319