Everybody suffers from constipation at some time in their lives, but what is it, what causes it and what can you do about it?

Constipation symptoms include not being able to pass stools at all, or when you do, they are hard, dry and scanty or the inability to empty your bowel completely.  Sitting on the loo continuously straining to pass stools, carries its own problems, as this can cause haemorrhoids also known as piles, these are like varicose veins and can be very painful.

So what are some of the causes of constipation?

  1. Not enough water – dehydration can cause constipation, as there is nothing to lubricate the bowel.
  2. A sluggish liver can contribute to constipation. The liver produces bile which creates a slight laxative effect by lubricating the bowel. In a perfect world you should open your bowels after every meal.  At the very least you should be eliminating your bowels once daily.  Any less then this and you may have a potential problem.
  3. A lack of dietary fibre. Fibre (or roughage) gives the digestive tract something to hold onto, pushing waste through by peristalsis (a bit like a Mexican wave!) pushing everything through the bowel to relieve constipation.

Some of the best natural constipation remedies are those that stimulate the natural secretion of the digestive juices such as bile, encouraging the bowels to open in an easy, natural way. Dandelion root and Licorice are two herbal remedies I often use for constipation.

Licorice also feeds and nourishes the adrenal glands, which often suffer when we are stressed (think of adrenaline – the stress hormone) so liquorice has two-way benefits in the treatment of constipation.

Prolonged use of powerful purgative laxatives is not recommended.  These laxatives can cause the bowels to become dependent on and eventually unable to function without them.

Essential fatty acids also lubricate the digestive tract making elimination easier. Try making a smoothie adding fresh fruit, one tablespoon ground flaxseed and one tablespoon of hemp, flaxseed or pumpkinseed oil.  I love ground flaxseed, as it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre, i.e. not only will it create roughage for your bowel, but it will help to regulate your blood sugar.

For help with constipation or other digestive related problems contact Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare, or call: 07947 742 469.

About the author: Patricia Ferguson is a Consultant Medical Herbalist and the owner of Green Leaves Herbal Healthcare, a Herbal medicine practice in South London, near  Croydon.

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