Treating constipation with natural medicine

Natural medicine can help with constipation. Constipation is a symptom. People who are constipated have fewer than three bowel movements a week; their faeces weigh less than 35g a day and they need to make an effort to defecate in at least 25% of these bowel movements.

Causes

Constipation can by idiopathic or secondary to other pathologies. Idiopathic or atonic constipation can be caused by:

  • A diet lacking in fibre such as fruit, vegetables, whole foods and fluids. It is recommended that we ingest between 30g and 40g of fibre each day and drink a minimum of 1,5l of water each day.
  • Holding faeces in voluntarily, avoiding going to the toilet when we need to.
  • A sedentary lifestyle. Physical exercise increases colon motility and abdominal pressure.
  • Excessive laxatives, certain medicines, illnesses, hormonal imbalances and changes of routine can cause constipation.

Symptoms

With constipation, there is a reduction in the rhythm of bowel movements and an increase in thickness of the faeces.

Additionally, other symptoms can appear such as: abdominal bloating, fatigue, discomfort, headaches, halitosis, and lack of appetite, asthenia, insomnia and colic pain due to the accumulation of gas.

Constipation increases the likelihood of developing haemorrhoids, anal fissures, diverticula and colon cancer.

Treatment

Natural medicine has several constipation remedies to offer. It is still advisable to take certain hygienic and dietary measures. It is important to respond immediately to the bowel movement reflex, make a habit of going to the toilet at the same time each day and to relax.

The patient should partake in gentle physical exercise in order to stimulate colon motility and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

The diet must be rich in fibre. If we take fibre supplements, this should be done in a gradual way in order to avoid abdominal spasms. Dietary fibre such as Psyllium (Platago ovata) increases and softens the stools.

Anthraquinone laxatives

Anthraquinone laxatives are very effective. Some of these include: aloe vera, sacred bark, frangula, rhubarb and senna. These are useful for acute or occasional constipation. These laxatives are recommended to patients who need to defecate easily.

They are also useful when there are anal fissures, haemorrhoids and following an anal surgical procedure.

They can be used alongside other carminative plants such as green anise and fennel.

Probiotics

Probiotics can improve constipation. The probiotic gut flora increases gut motility and improves gastrointestinal function.

FOS (Fructooligosaccharides)

FOS are prebiotics, which means they are the food source of probiotics. FOS accelerate the rate at which food passes through the digestive tract, therefore avoiding constipation. FOS can help us to achieve a “flat stomach”.

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 can improve constipation and overcome laxative dependency. Vitamin B5 intervenes in the synthesis of acetyl choline.

Acetyl choline is a neurotransmitter that speeds up peristaltic movements in the intestine. Vitamin B5 or dexpanthenol deficiency is associated with constipation.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 avoids constipation by improving intestinal muscle tone. Vitamin B1 deficiency is linked to constipation.

Other options

  • Bitter medicines stimulate movement in the digestive tract and are mildly laxative without causing dependency.
  • Choleretic plants such as dandelion and milk thistle are used when bile deficiency makes constipation worse.
  • Cholagogic plants such as artichoke can help to resolve constipation. Artichoke is not recommended when there is an obstruction of the bile ducts.
  • Yucca (Yucca schidigera) contains saponins, which gives it mild laxative properties.
  • Manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) is a resin known as manna. Manna ash is rich in mannitol, which gives it a gentle laxative effect. Manna ash behaves like a gentle osmotic laxative. Manna ash is recommended for constipation in babies, children and the elderly due to its gentle mechanism of action.

If you suffer with constipation, don’t abuse laxatives even if they are natural. If you take too many laxatives, the intestine becomes lazy and relies on stimulants in order to work.

It is important to re-educate the bowels to work independently. The best advice is to increase your intake of fibre, drink at least 1,5l of water per day, partake in physical exercise and try to defecate at the same time each day.

Photo: CC0 Public Domain

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