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Constipation

I was once in a support group with a woman whose whole life revolved around dealing with constipation: She was chronically constipated, and stressed about having yet another "impaction." An 'impaction' means that the constipation is so severe that it requires hospitalization. Her doctor had foolishly prescribed a variety of laxatives and she was now dependent upon them. The doctor had made a bad problem much much worse.

There is an effective way of dealing with constipation. This article represents a common sense approach that should be helpful for most people. Here's what I know.

First, for individuals who have a traumatic and/or abusive past—and have really never talked about it—psychotherapy actually can help! It usually doesn't matter much what the theoretical orientation of the therapist is. What helps is simply being able to express your feelings to another person. Often, under these circumstances, there will be a major and long-term improvement in constipation.

Second, there is a cause and effect relationship between unresolved anger and constipation. Unforgiveness and resentment can cause constipation. Be sure to read my articles on Anger Management, How to Forgive and Getting rid of anger.

Third, avoid using laxatives—you will become dependent on them.

Fourth, exercise regularly. You were not designed to be a "couch potato." Try to exercise every day. Look for a exercise routine that is not burdensome.

Fifth, beware of prescription medications. Such medications often cause problems in the digestive tract—and not just constipation. Take such medications only when they are really necessary. Talk to your pharmacist—and do your own research—in regard to side effects, including the very real possibility that your medication is causing your constipation.

Sixth, calcium. Calcium is an important mineral needed to prevent osteoporosis. But it's best to get it from your diet and not from supplements. Calcium supplements have been linked to heart disease and other health problems.

Calcium supplements are also constipating. If you do take them, always take magnesium with your calcium—this will prevent the calcium from making you constipated. Take half as much magnesium as you take calcium. If you take a 500mg calcium tablet, you should also take 250mg of magnesium at the same time. With all supplements, use only well-known brands with solid reputations. Others may be deficient or even contaminated. Supplements and herbal preparations are independently evaluated at ConsumerLab.com.

Seventh, never strain at the stool. This can cause major problems. My father told me his need for an ileostomy was the result of doing this. Straining can also cause hemorrhoids.

Eighth, go to the bathroom immediately, don't wait. This is essential.

Ninth, for occasional constipation, you can simply drink extra water. The weight of the water will usually be enough to relieve the constipation. You need to do this as soon as you realize that you're constipated. I weigh 165#. I drink about a quart of water (One liter), when needed. This should not be done successfully more than two days in a row. Otherwise, your bowels will become lazy and you'll need to do this every day—just like a laxative. If this technique doesn't work, don't worry. Just repeat the process the next day.

WARNING: Drinking too much water at one time is dangerous and will kill you. Do not drink so much water that it's painful. Stop drinking immediately if you develop a headache or feel unusual sensations in your head. If you're not sure how much water is reasonable for you, ask your doctor in advance. Do not use this technique with children without first consulting with your child's doctor.

Tenth, eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber. That means 100% whole grains and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are also fine. Minimize your consumption of white flour, white rice, candy, chips and other junk foods.

A great way to add more fiber to your diet is to make smoothies. All you need is a blender. Build up the fiber in your diet slowly to prevent flatulence.

Also, try to eat a completely vegan diet at least every other day. In my experience, this virtually eliminates constipation.

Eleventh, don't allow yourself to worry about constipation (Philippians 4:4-9). That's a sure way to make yourself constipated. Worry, in any context, is always a sin—and sins always have negative consequences.

Twelfth: "Always be joyful (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT)." One overlooked thing that really helps is simply to enjoy your life: "A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones (Proverbs 17:22 NKJV)."

Thirteenth: Special Circumstances: 1) Laxatives may be used on rare occasions: For example, if you go on a long road trip—say once or twice a year—it may be appropriate to use a laxative in this circumstance if you become constipated. Milk of Magnesia is what I use. 2) If your doctor prescribes Vicodin or a similar painkiller for daily use, you will probably become constipated as a result. When I was in school, one professor told about becoming so constipated that he had to be hospitalized as a result of using Vicodin. If the Vicodin is only going to be prescribed for a short period of time, you may also want to ask your doctor about taking mineral oil1 daily so you don't become constipated. This is available at any pharmacy. Read the product label before using.

If you follow the suggestions in this article, you may get to the point that you almost never need laxatives. At least, that has been my experience.

Finally, these are my opinions: I have no medical training. Consult with your doctor and pharmacist in regard to your individual situation before making any changes.

Disclaimer: Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

1 Some doctors have expressed concerns over the health consequences of using mineral oil.
You decide. It shouldn't be used very often.

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