Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gut Check: How Many Hours without a Bowel Movement Equals Constipation?

Sorry I have to ask, but do you know?

A lot of people have no idea. The short answer is 24 hours. If you regularly experience 24 hours or more between bowel movements, then you have chronic constipation.

If that is true, then you are not alone. Here are some shocking facts, the "straight poop" if you will, that might shock you: Studies indicate that

- 60% of the U.S. population suffers from chronic constipation

- the average U.S. adult carries around 15-30 pounds of fecal material in their large intestine (wow, that's a lot of weight!)

Symptoms of Constipation
The straight poop on constipation is certainly shocking, and it also explains the "beer gut" or pot belly that many people carry around their mid-sections. Oddly enough, though, most of these people have no idea that they suffer from constipation.

For years, one of my friends thought it was perfectly normal to have a bowel movement once a week. Not so.

Aside from not "going" on a regular basis, other symptoms of constipation can include:

- bad breath
- a strangely-colored or dark-colored tongue
- sleepiness or lack of energy
- bloating and other digestive issues
- headaches and dizziness
- a feeling heaviness in the lower abdomen
- poor skin condition

None of those are too pleasant, either. Luckily, there are simple natural steps you can take if you do suffer from constipation, or any of its symptoms.

3 Natural Steps to Relieve Symptoms of Constipation
If you suffer from constipation, your main goal is to get your digestion functioning at a more healthy and active level again. Constipation is a sign that your digestion has a lot of accumulated fecal matter that not only adds extra pounds to your body mass, but also prevents normal digestion. The extra fecal matter prevents your body from properly absorbing nutrients from your food, and efficiently getting rid of waste.

To help restore your body's normal digestion, you need to take three steps:

Clean, replenish, and replace.

Step #1: Clean Your Digestive Tract
There are many ways to cleanse your body, but the simplest one I know of is to do a castor oil pack on your abdomen once a week for 4 weeks. Castor oil packs are an old Edgar Cayce remedy and they work really well to help your body get rid of any kind of waste. They work equally well on anything from clogged up intestines to unwanted bone spurs. Castor oil literally dissolves any kind of unnatural material in the body.

You can buy full castor oil packs (which include a wool flannel cloth, castor oil, and a heating pad) at most health food stores. You can also order these supplies online at the Heritage Store. You will also need to have some baking soda on hand for cleaning up after you have done the pack.

A short version of how to do the castor oil pack are as follows:

1. Soak the wool flannel with castor oil, and place the flannel in an ovenproof dish.

2. Warm the wool flannel in the oven, until warm to the touch. Meanwhile, plug in the heating pad and warm it. Also, mix the baking soda with water so it forms a paste.

3. Once the wool flannel is warmed, place it directly on your abdomen, and then place the heating pad on top. Leave the "pack" in place for 1.5 hours.

4. Once you are done with the pack, wipe your entire abdomen with the baking soda paste. This converts the toxins released by the pack into harmless salts that can be washed out of your body through the lymphatic system. This step is very important so don't skip it. If you do, your body will not be able to excrete the toxins released by the pack.

The castor oil pack, done for four weeks, will definitely help clean your digestive tract. The next step is to replenish.

Step #2: Replenish the Probiotics in Your Digestive Tract
Once you have started the cleansing process with the castor oil pack, the next step is to replenish the probiotics that live in a healthy intestine. Probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus are friendly bacteria that play a huge role in digestion, once food passes out of the stomach. But stress, excess fecal matter, chlorinated water, and eating too much of the wrong foods can all kill these friendly bacteria, which can lead to poor digestion and constipation.

The easiest way to replenish these friendly bacteria is to take them orally. The best probiotics are stored in refrigerators in health food stores (don't buy the ones that are stored at room temperature) or bought online from reputable health companies. Sometimes taking a powerful full-spectrum probiotic, which has more than just acidophilus and bifidus, for a month can do a fast job of restoring your friendly intestinal bacteria, and relieve symptoms of constipation quickly. Eating yogurt "beefed up" with probiotics can help, but to fully replenish your supply of healthy intestinal bacteria oral supplements are your best bet. Yogurt tends not to have enough density of probiotics to truly replenish.

Finally, the last step is to replace the enzymes that are missing from the food you eat.

Step #3: Replace Enzymes with Enzyme Therapy
Adding enzymes into your daily diet is the last step towards a healthy digestive tract and relief from constipation symptoms. Because many of the foods we eat lack the enzymes necessary for digestion, we have to take extra enzymes to help digest our foods. While raw organic foods usually have enough enzymes to digest themselves, so our bodies don't have to provide extra enzymes, most of the foods we eat are cooked, packaged, or otherwise enzyme-light.

Taking enzymes with each meal with ensure that your food is properly digested in the stomach before it goes into your intestines. Taking enzymes between meals also helps with digestion, since these enzymes roam the body and "digest" toxins, extra fecal matter, and even proteins that have slipped into the bloodstream through the stomach wall.

Be sure to take an enzyme formula that has multiple kinds of enzymes, since each kind of food needs its own enzymes to fully digest. For instance, you need:

- amylase to break down starch
- invertase to digest sugar products
- lactase to digest milk sugar
- cellulase and pectinase to assist in the breakdown of fiber
- lipase to break down fat
- protease, bromelain, and papain to break down protein
- mycopepsin is a special enzyme characterized by its ability to break down proteins under acid conditions, which exists in the stomach

As you can see, there is no single enzyme that will break down every kind of food, so read the labels when choosing an enzyme formula to add to your daily regimen.

Constipation, and its symptoms, is no fun to deal with. Relieving those symptoms, however, are not difficult, especially if you follow the three natural steps outlined above. The cost of cleansing, replenishing, and replacing what's missing from your digestive tract is not expensive, and will save you tons in medical bills, not to mention give you the pleasure of a healthy body!

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andybutkaj/ / CC BY 2.0

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