The bowels are one of our main elimination organs, getting rid of unwanted waste and toxins from the body.
When food first enters your mouth it is solid, it has to be chewed, worked upon by digestive enzymes and made into a liquid, from this liquid all the essential nutrients are absorbed on the journey to the large intestine.
In the large intestine water is absorbed from the liquid waste to form stools or you would have constant diarrhoea.
Stools need to be solid enough for the muscles of the bowel to push against and moist enough to be passed from the body comfortably – quite a tall order!
When we become constipated the faeces remain in the large intestine for too long and water continues to be reabsorbed into the blood stream causing the stools to become harder and harder and consequently more difficult to eliminate.
Then when the excess water has been absorbed the toxins in the faeces begin to be absorbed and flow round the body causing us to feel sluggish and ‘off colour’.
All this food waste builds up and the feelings of bloating and discomfort start, leading to backache, headaches, stomach discomfort, intestinal pain, wind and more.
Ideally, we should empty our bowels at least once a day.
How to avoid constipation:
The first golden rule is to eat AT LEAST five portions of fruit and vegetablesa day. These provide roughage for the bowel muscles to push against and water to soften the stool
Drink plenty of fluidsespecially water (1-2 litres a day).
Try sprinkling a tablespoon of golden linseeds on your breakfast or grind up some dark linseeds. You can regulate the amount to suit your needs.
Oat bran sprinkled on cereal is a good source ofsoluble roughage– better than wheat bran as this is insoluble and is too rough for some people. In some cases wheat can actually cause constipation, so you could try cutting it out for a while and see how you go!
You've heard of Pooh sticks - now try the poo stool!
Early man didn’t have toilets – they squatted to do their business. It is easier to pass a motion if your knees are above your hips. This can be achieved by putting your feet up on an upside down waste bin or buying a little milking stool (poo stool!) to keep in the loo.
Psyllium husks can help in chronic cases. A product called Lepicol is very effective. It contains psyllium husks, acidophilus (good gut bacteria) and FOS a food to encourage good bacteria. It is a godsend on holiday! You can buy it from most health food shops.
If all of the above do not correct your constipation you may have food intolerances that are affecting your bowels. The nervous system also affects them - some people get diarrhoea others constipation or both.
Contact your doctor if your constipation fails to get better after you have made the above changes in your diet -
And ALWAYS if you have blood in your stools.