Uncooperative bowels may benefit from simple measures

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Having trouble with constipation?

If so, I am sorry about that. That is the pits. The intent of this article is to provide simple things that will help most people who have constipation.

But first it is important to know there is quite a range of normal for the number of bowel movements a person can have. Some will have 3 a day and others only one every three days although that is a bit uncommon.

Next it is important to know there are a number of causes of constipation. Some can be serious. Medications can cause it especially those with narcotics such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Calcium such as calcium carbonate can also cause significant constipation. Calcium citrate reportedly is less apt to cause constipation. But most cases of constipation are due to one of three things or a combination of three things. 1. Low fiber in the diet. The dietary fiber that helps people have normal bowel movements is not found in any animal product. It is not in meat, fish, milk, eggs or cheese but only in plant products. The fibers that are seen in some cuts of meat do not help.

Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods which an be divided into two types-soluble and insoluble. The insoluble is the type that helps to relieve constipation. This can be found in whole grain foods, wheat and corn brain, nuts and seeds, potato skins, flaxseed and vegetables such as green beans, cauliflower, and celery.

Soluble fibers serve other useful functions such as lowering cholesterol and regulating blood sugar. Internet users wanting more information can Google dietary fibers.

Unfortunately there is a problem with the fiber that is found in one of the most commonly used plant foods -- wheat -- such as in bread, pasta, spaghetti, pie crust, pizza, doughnuts. The problem is that the fiber has been significantly diminished in the refining process that produces white flour. Enriched wheat flour has only 22 percent as much fiber as in 100 percent whole wheat.

2. Inadequate water intake -- most adults need 5-8 glasses of water per day. 3. Lack of physical exercise. The person who sits at a desk all day will be more apt to be constipated than farmers/ranchers or a day laborer.

Some folks believe that if you don't have regular bowel movements you will absorb toxins or poisons from the bowels. This in not true. Laxatives should not be the first thing to use if you have chronic constipation.

Now for a simple remedy that can really help some folks. Drink 2 glasses or cups full of hot water 1/2 hour before breakfast. This advice is dependent upon eating a good breakfast. Too many Americans are eating their big meal at night and very little, if anything for breakfast. When one breaks his fast after having nothing to eat all night and eats a good breakfast this stimulates the bowel muscles. The hot water helps this process as does going to sit on the toilet 1/2 to 3/4 hour after breakfast. With persistence it is possible to train your bowels to move at the right time.

If one does need help in getting the bowels to work, a high fiber product such as metamucil or flax seed meal should be one of the first things a person uses. Of course, if you are having significant problems with constipation or a change in bowel habits, you are advised to discuss this with your health care provider.

Dr. Don Casebolt of College Place is a retired physician who is passionate about preventive medicine. He spent 4 years as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy, the last 21/2 years as a flight surgeon. He also worked on the Navajo Reservation for 22 years.

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