In these days of bowel screening for Colon Cancer, any change in bowel habit is worthy of investigation, but for the majority of people with "sluggish" bowels, how to treat constipation is still more of an art than a science: so in order to help improve the situation, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
The body has a natural reflex to empty the bowel and this occurs usually about 15 to 20 minutes after a meal and is known as the Gastro-Colic reflex. In other words, if you put food in the top end of the gut tube, you will need to clear some space lower down, in order to make room for the waste material from this meal when it comes through. The problem is that in these modern, busy times with all the rush and "things to do", we often suppress this urge, and like most things, if not used properly, it gets a little "rusty"! But the reflex is always there, even when not used, and it can be reactivated. So, if constipation is a problem, then chose a meal that you might regularly have time after, and then about 15 minutes after eating, go to the little romm with a book or magazine and sit and wait to see if you can feel that reflex wanting to work. If after say 5 minutes, nothing has happened, then repeat after the next appropriate meal. With patience, you should be able to become aware of your bowel wanting to empty.
The next thing is to make sure that your bowel has enough residue in it for the gut to actually grip on: and the best foods for this are vegetables, wholemeal grains, nuts and fibrous fruits. Processed and packaged foods are often just "dissolve in your mouth and disappear in the bowel" materials that will not help in resolving constipation! A good suggestion is to keep a food diary in order to help you become aware of what you actually eat on a daily/weekly basis: once you know, then you can make appropriate, healthy changes.
Exercise is yet again a really good "get out of goal" card for most things that ail us: and yes, it does help with constipation too!
When it comes to things that help the bowel work more efficiently, the following treatments might be of help:
- Treatments that help soften the stool: Coloxyl tablets from the Pharmacy.
- Treatments that help make the gut contract more strongly: such as Senna, and Phenopthalein that is found in certain medications.
- Treatments that ferment in the bowel such as Lactulose.
- Treatments that lubricate the gut such as Liquid paraffin and Glycerin suppositories.