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The Diet Cure For Constipation

Aug 14, 2008
The first rule in treating constipation is to be sure you have it. In many chronic cases it is not the colon that is constipated, but the mind. Responsible for this are widespread misconceptions about physiology, the scare stories of laxative advertisers, and the enthusiasm of mothers for daily bowel movements in their offspring.

There is no law of nature that says a daily bowel movement is necessary for perfect health. Plenty of healthy persons have been victimized by the cathartic habit in a frantic effort to be regular on a daily basis when, physiologically, they were two-day or even three-day men.

Despite horror stories that constipation causes violent poisons to accumulate in the system and that practically all diseases known to man originate from intestinal sluggishness, nothing very terrible is going to happen to you if you pass a non-eliminative day,that is unless you get frightened and worried and resort to cathartics. Then you disturb your natural rhythm, giving the alimentary tube no chance to reassert itself because it would require, perhaps, two days to do so, so the rhythm is kept artificially "regular" by laxative measures.

The things you eat have a great deal to do with your eliminative schedule. Such valuable concentrated foods as eggs, cheese, and meat are digested almost completely, leaving very little residue. The reputed constipating effect of cheese arises largely from the fact that it is almost entirely absorbed, leaving no bulk to excite the colon. Sugar provides very little in the way of residue. Naturally, if the diet contains a large proportion of such concentrated foods, there may not be enough waste materials to make a daily evacuation possible, but no harm will result there from.

From a dietary point of view, if you leave your colon alone and let nature take its course, the constipation bogey can be pretty much put in its place assuming that your doctor assures you are free of systemic causes, which is ordinarily the case by an intelligent selection of foods.

Roughage is a stimulus to frequent evacuation, and roughage is supplied by many vegetables, cereals, and fruits. Bran has long been valued for the laxative properties of its roughage. Some persons, however, cannot tolerate the coarseness of bran, but if it causes no untoward effects in your case, a dish of bran at breakfast may aid regularity. It isn't really rough stuff you want, but bulk.

Pour a little water on a newspaper and watch the fibers swell. Newsprint is made of cellulose and it is this indigestible stuff that provides roughage in fruits and vegetables. Cellulose absorbs water readily and thus not only provides bulk, but bulk of proper liquid consistency. If fruits are eaten with the peelings on, potatoes in their jackets, cereals in whole-grain form, etc., the cellulose intake is significantly increased and the colon has something to work on.

Moreover, there is another benefit perhaps even more important: the outer coverings of foods, in general, provide liberal amounts of Vitamin B1.This vitamin is remarkably important to intestinal function. Persons who have had chronic constipation for years have been cured by intensive Vitamin B1 treatment over periods of a month or two. Part of the effectiveness of bran is attributed to its high B1 content.

A recent finding is that shortages of minerals, particularly calcium and potassium, dispose to constipation. Rats whose diets were arbitrarily limited in these minerals invariably developed intestinal stasis medicalese for constipation. Testing this finding further, 19 children were put on diets restricted in potassium and calcium; 14 of them became severely constipated. The condition was relieved or prevented by salts of the minerals.

Green vegetables, fruits and salads assure good mineral intakes; milk is rich in calcium and also, surprisingly, leaves a great deal of residue for bulk. Bread also is a high residue food and if taken in whole-grain form it provides significant amounts of Vitamin B1

Water, oils and fats are mechanically effective in aiding elimination. Your water intake should be sufficient to prevent withdrawal of liquid from the colon, which dries and solidifies its contents.

Addition of butter to the diet helps overcome constipation in some cases, or an ounce or so of olive oil, mixed with substances to give it flavor, may be used. Such measures are impracticable, however, because of the high calorie values of these foods, if you are on a slimming diet. Mineral oil is probably the most unobjectionable of all laxatives but, as we have seen, it tends to prevent absorption of Vitamin A from vegetable foods. The use of an enema is now considered harmless by most doctors and greatly to be preferred to the cathartic habit.
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