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Constipation with Diet as a Natural Remedy



Many people are reluctant to talk about constipation and having problems with their bowels when going to the bathroom.  It is something that remains hidden behind closed doors and it is rare that it is discussed out in the open.  We don’t mention the discomfort and pain that results from constipation and distress in the lower bowel.  Regardless of this taboo, there is a greater abundance of pain and suffering that comes from this eight foot long section of colon tubing than comes from any other place in or on the body.  Some of the discomforts are simply a nuisance and other problems threaten to bring our life to an end.  The one thing we should know for certain is that none of these problems, diseases and illnesses should be thought of as “normal” life experience.  They are truly not normal.

Ask five people what constipation means to them and you are likely to get five answers.  Some will say their bowels move only a single time in a week and even then they will have a movement only if they take a powerful laxative. These persons will accept this routine as normal because that is all they have ever known.  Wouldn’t anyone accept this as normal if that is all one had ever known since childhood?

Bowel movements occurring in the arena of good health will vary quite a bit among “normal people.”  For some persons, having a movement every other day would seem normal while others may have movement three times every day.  All could be in perfect health.  A good rule of thumb for deciding what is a normal stool, is that the feces should be somewhat soft and it should expel easily without any discomfort or straining.  It should mostly just fall out naturally without much pushing.  Bowel matter should not accumulate to the point that there is any discomfort or bloating.

Constipation is characterized by a hard, small consistency that is often in pellets and it will require pushing and straining to get it to pass.  With such demands placed on the bowel, the muscles in the abdomen must tighten and a deep breath must be taken and held in order for the diaphragm to push downward and expel the feces.  This powerful internal pressure in the abdomen aids in forcing the feces on through the colon and out the rectum.  With hard stools, the additional pressure is required because the force from the natural contraction of the colon is not sufficient to push out the hard and compact fecal material.

A sure sign of this straining effort is the muscles of the face and neck become tense and tight as we strain to have a movement.  If one had a mirror, we could see the face turn red as well.  However, most individuals  are not aware that permanent and damaging changes will be the consequence of these strong forces even though the force is short lived.

Constipation and Varicose Veins

The veins in our legs will be damaged by the pushing and straining that is the result of such difficult bowel movement.  Along the leg veins are valves that occur frequently.  The purpose of these valves is to aid in raising the blood up to the heart. It is like climbing a ladder to overcome the force of gravity.  These venous valves are weakened, damaged and stretched by the great pressures that are necessary to evacuate hard, small, dry feces.  Before too long, the valves are no longer capable of supporting the flow of blood up the legs.  Having lost the effectiveness of the valves, a four foot column of blood pushes on the bottom veins all through the day.  One obvious result of this damage is varicose veins. These are the unsightly blue worms which ruin the appearance of one’s legs and so often cause discomfort, pain and even ulcers.

Constipation and Hemorrhoids

Another condition that results from straining is hemorrhoids.  The cause is the same for this condition as is for varicose veins.  There are many old wives’ tails connected with this bain of the lower end.  You may have heard some say they got their hemorrhoids from cold toilet seats or from birthing babies.

Hemorrhoids are a dysfunction of veins that are found in the very lower extremity of the colon which is known as the anus or rectum.  These veins at the end of the intestinal tract have the important job of sealing off the colon.  They deploy cushions filled with blood to make certain that gas and feces does not escape at the wrong time.  This seal is actually two seals made up of two rings of veins.  The upper or inner ring is made up of internal hemorrhoidal veins and the lower ring is in the rectum, covered by skin and is known as the external hemorrhoidal veins.  Beneath these veins is a very strong muscle which acts as the principal gate keeper in the passing of fecal matter.  This makes it very important socially and in the physical functioning of our body.

Because of straining at hard stools, the rectum suffers the same damage as the veins in the legs.  When we pushing and straining to have a bowel movement, the veins are pressurized overfilling them like balloons.  They lose their ability to return to their normal capacity and so they become permanently enlarged extending out of the rectum.  In this state they become constantly painful bulges with further complications of itching and bleeding.  Years of bowel straining also cause the muscles in the rectum to push to the outside.  As a result they eventually become removed from their normal position on the interior contributing to the pain and discomfort of the ballooning hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoidal conditions can be compounded by pregnancy. This is due to the fact that the uterus can sit on the veins in the pelvic area thus causing enlargement of the hemorrhoids.  However, this condition is not permanent and does not result in permanent hemorrhoids.  Permanent hemorrhoids are caused by continuous long term constipation. One of the best examples of the positive effect of eating a starch based diet is that African women may have five or ten babies and will not ever experience hemorrhoids in pregnancy or in any other period of their life. Because they eat a diet of beans, grains and vegetables, they have soft fluffy stools and do not have to strain.  Also they do not experience varicose veins.

Constipation and Diverticulitis

Diverticula are hernias that occur in the wall of the large intestine.  These are pockets that balloon out from the wall of the intestine. These pockets often become inflamed and painful causing much discomfort.  This inflamed condition is called diverticulitis.  The wall of the colon in these herniated pockets has become thin and stretched and my eventually rupture spilling fecal matter into the abdominal cavity.  This is a very serious life threatening condition as the bacteria in the fecal matter cause the abdomen and then the blood to become septic (infected).  Death can result from this.  Often surgeons will recommend removing parts of the colon affected by these hernias to avoid future complications with ruptures and infections.  These hernias, or diverticula, are caused by small hard fecal matter.  It is a law of physics that the smaller the contents in a tube (colon), the harder the muscles of the colon must push to expel the feces.  On the other hand, a large, soft, bulky stool with lots of water and volume will fill the colon.  Then the muscles in the colon do not have to tighten and push as hard.  It is simply a matter of leverage.  A stool that is formed from a high fiber diet will rarely develop these diverticula. 

Constipation and Hiatal Hernia

There is yet another form of damage that can result from constipation.  There is an opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus to go to the stomach.  This opening is stretched each time the stomach is pressed up against it when one strains to have a bowel movement.  In time, a tear will develop in the diaphragm and the stomach (normally in the abdomen) takes up residence above the diaphragm in the chest cavity.  This unfortunate condition is referred to as a hiatal hernia.

Constipation does not occur as the result of an emotional problem, at least not in the beginning.  However, years of problems with the bowel can cause any person to question his or her sanity and lose emotional and mental stability.  If a person has a diet consisting of primarily foods lacking fiber then there will be nothing to make the fecal matter lose and of sufficient bulk.  Foods that have no fiber include all animal products such as pork, chicken, fish, beef, lobster, milk, cheese and so on.  Also fats such as corn oil and butter, alcoholic beverages, refined grains (white flour pasta, white bread and white rice) have no fiber.  Eating these fibreless foods will cause our stool to be like hardened rabbit pellets.

Diet is the Cure for Constipation

The single most important ingredient for healthy functioning bowels is fiber.  Fiber is found in plant foods as an array of non-digestible complex carbohydrates.  After the small intestine has absorbed all of the proteins, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals, what remains is the non-digestible fiber and a very large quantity of friendly microbes.  These remains form the bulk of our bowel movement. Because the fibers are able to absorb and hold water, the bulk of the stool is increased.  In addition, the more beverages and foods that are taken in, the more will be the contents of the intestines, and this will increase the frequency and volume of the bowel movements.

The cure for constipation is a starch based diet supplemented with fruits and vegetables.  This is the certain, infallible and only cure for chronic constipation.  Some foods, fruits for example, have large amounts of fiber and water and so they make a larger contribution to softer, bulkier stools.  As a result of the effect they have on the bowels, prunes are widely esteemed for the ability to relieve constipation. Grains provide numerous types of fibers.  Two of these are hemicelluloses and cellulose and they are very efficient and prodigious at absorbing water. Natives of Africa whose diet is based on grain, have, on average, three voluminous unformed bowel movements each day.  You can too with a healthy vegetarian diet.

Milk Causes Bowel Problems

Milk proteins can be very damaging and disrupting to many people.  There are people who have made a nearly total transition to a healthy diet but were not able to give up that small amount of skim milk in their morning cereal.  As a result and because of their sensitivity, their bowels continued to malfunction.  It takes only a little protein from dairy products to shut things down in people who have this sensitivity.  Humans are the only animal on the planet that continues to drink milk or take milk products past infancy.  To compound this violation of the Natural Order, the milk is not human milk but cow’s milk which is designed to grow an animal from 50 pounds to 500 pounds in a year! 

Getting Off Laxatives,

Those persons who of suffered from bowel problems for a number of years and have been living on laxative, may have expanded their colons to double the normal length.  The will have formed coils of redundant bowel that loop back and forth like a roller coaster in the cavity of the abdomen.  These persons need additional help.  In the first place, a chronic laxative abuser’s colon has gotten used to getting its message to contract from a drug. The colon has forgotten how to activate on command from the body’s natural message.  This normally occurs when the colon walls expand when filled with yesterday’s food.  People who are laxative dependent must first be persuaded to give up his or her laxatives, and then wait until the elongated colon becomes filled with enough digested food matter to give the natural urge to evacuate.  This may take several days.  Eventually the bowel wall muscles will begin to contract in a normal way and a bowel movement will occur naturally.  When the natural order of emptying and filling with foods that are high in fiber begins, the cycle will proceed without the intervention of laxatives. This will be true as long as the person stays with a high fiber diet.

Constipation Natural Remedy

Eat frequent meals consisting of starch based whole foods.  This would include whole grains, whole grain flours, beans, vegetables and fruits.  At first when attempting to restore natural bowel function, take some extra water each day – ten glasses instead of four or five.  Prunes can be taken as the next step.  After this, if more help is needed, eat bran and ground flax seeds.  Put 2 to 4 tablespoons of flax seeds in each cup of grain (rice for example) before cooking.

As a last effort, you can purchase lactulose sugar (brand name Chronulac and Granulac) which is not absorbable. This pulls water into the bowel and will bring an end to constipation in the most difficult of cases.  You must have a doctor’s prescription to get lactulose.

Council on Scientific Affairs. Dietary fiber and health. JAMA 262:542, 1989

Dwyer, J. Health aspects of vegetarian diets (review). Am J Clin Nutr 48(3 suppl):712, 1988

Dehn, T. Hemorrhoids and defecatory habits (letter). Lancet 1:54, 1989

Read, N. Hemorrhoids, constipation, and hypertensive anal cushions (letter) Lancet 1:610, 1989

Burkitt, D. Dietary fiber and disease. JAMA 229:1068, 1974

Burkitt, D. Varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and hemorrhoids: epidemiology and suggested aetiology. Br Med J 2:556, 1972

This article was adapted from an article written by Dr. John McDougall, MD, a board certified internist and world renowned nutritional expert. You can read his original article and many other fascinating articles on diet and nutrition at www dot drmcdougall dot com. 

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