Go straight to our natural BOWEL SUPPORT KITS for babies, children, adults and during pregnancy
WHAT IS CONSTIPATION?
If you or your child has less than four bowel movements in any seven day period and you have to strain to empty your bowels then it is generally acknowledged that you have constipation. Anyone who has ever had constipation will know that it can be very uncomfortable and sometimes painful.
The bowel movements of newborn babies can vary greatly - see Constipation in Babies for more information
Being constipated often means that you feel the need to go to the toilet but nothing happens. Alternatively being constipated can cause the stools to be very dry, small and hard. It can cause pain and bloating in the abdominal area and can generally make you feel very sluggish and uncomfortable.
Natural constipation can often by a symptom of another problem and can also cause other conditions such as: body odour, furry tongue, depression, fatigue, trapped wind, bloating, headaches, haemorrhoids (piles), halitosis; heartburn, sleeplessness, poor absorption of nutrients, obesity and varicose veins. It can also be associated with much more serious conditions such as cancer of the bowel.
WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION?
Each one of us has a very different digestive system. It is normal for some people to 4 or 5 bowel movements each week and yet for others being regular means going 2-3 times a day. Ideally at least one bowel movement each day is recommended.
There can be many reasons why a person suffers from constipation however the main causes of a sluggish digestive system are:
1/ not enough fibre, fluids, vitamin C or magnesium in the diet
2/ insufficient good bacteria in the gut
3/ a sedentary lifestyle
There can be many other causes of constipation and these include:
age, degenerative muscle disorders, stress, certain drugs, some types of iron supplements, high levels of calcium in the body and an underactive thyroid, health complaints such as diabetes and kidney failure for example. If constipation alternates with diarrhoea you may be suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Constipation can also be associated with much more serious conditions such as cancer of the bowel.
NATURAL CONSTIPATION & PREGNANCY:
During pregnancy the increased level of progesterone in the body has a relaxing effect on the muscles making them less efficient and this includes the muscle of the gut. The result can be poor bowel health and this can increase the likelihood of haemorrhoids (piles) so it is important to try and avoid it or alleviate it as soon as it occurs - see Constipation in Pregnancy and Bowel Support Kit - Pregnancy
The recommended daily intake of fibre for an adult is between 25-35 grams and the best way to obtain this is through a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrain foods. Fibre comes in the form of insoluble and soluble fibre and the ideal ratio is 75% insoluble to 25% soluble. Both types of fibre are important for our health.
Although there are no specific Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) guidelines with regard to fibre and children, research suggests that over the age of five years a useful rule is:
AGE + 10 = Grams of fibre per day*
*Baghurst PA, Baghurst KI, Record SJ.Dietary Fibre, Non-Starch Polysaccharides and Resistant Starch: A Review. Food Aust 1996;48(suppl):S1-S36.
So, for example, an 8-year-old would need approximately 18 grams of fibre every day.
For children below the age of 5 years the rule would be AGE + 5 = Grams of fibre per day.
The conventional approach to constipation is to use a variety of laxatives or diuretics. These can work in the short-term however they do not deal with the underlying causes of the condition and in the long-term they can dehydrate the body, allow the gut to become lazy, and leave you feeling lethargic and apathetic.
SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY DIGESTION:
see our BOWEL SUPPORT KITS for babies, children, adults and during pregnancy
DIET & LIFESTYLE ADVICE:
- Ensure that you are eating a healthy diet rich in fibre
- Consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day), and their juices diluted with filtered or bottled water
- Eat wholegrain cereals, brown bread, brown pasta and brown rice. Try eating figs or prunes, which have a natural laxative effect
- If your child does not eat enough fruit and vegetables you can consider either of the following:
‘Organic Sprouted Flax Seeds’ (finely milled to a coarse powder – from 6 months+) high in dietary fibre which can be sprinkled onto food
‘Fruit & Veggies 5′ (children’s nutritional shake age 2+)
‘Easy 3′ (fruit & vegetable smoothie powder age 4+)
'Organic Lignan Flax Oil’ has the added benefit of lignans (flax seed particles) which are a source of fibre
see Cleanse & Fibre for Babies & Children for all these products
- Increase your intake of all fluids - water, herbal teas and homemade juices
- Ensure that you drink 8 - 10 glasses of quality water each day in addition to herbal tea and juices. Avoid caffeine drinks such as coffee, tea and cola, which are diuretics and dehydrate the body
- Increase your consumption of foods rich in vitamin C - broccoli, parsley, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit, berries, peppers, blackcurrants, Brussels sprouts, papaya. You can also supplement with extra vitamin C
- Increase your consumption of foods rich in magnesium - kiwi fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, dried apricots and seafood. You can also supplement with extra magnesium
- Raw garlic helps to destroy harmful bacteria in the gut so try adding it to salad dressings and raw juices or to meals at the very last minute. If you are concerned about the smell of garlic on your breath take an odourless garlic supplement
- Animal products - meat, cheese and milk slow down the action of the gut, so eating these in moderation would be a good idea. Try using organic rice or almond milk instead
- Exercise - a good twenty-minute walk can really improve bowel mobility. Regular exercise can help avoid problems happening in the first place.
Herbal tea - ginger, peppermint and chamomile both help relieve the stomach ache that can accompany constipation - see Herbal Tea.
Homeopathy - homeopathic treatment is 100% natural and children usually respond very well.
Take Nux Vomica 30c if you know that the cause is due to rich or unsuitable food, or overindulgence, or if there is a sensation of not having finished going to the toilet. There may be piles that itch and bleed; use Bryonia 30c if the stools are hard and dry, you have a headache that is worse for the slightest movement and feel irritable; use Nat Mur 30c if the stools are dry and crumbling, with bleeding or tearing and your skin is dry; take Sepia 30c if you are straining to pass a large, hard stool, your stomach feels full and you feel generally sluggish; or Sulphur 30c for constipation with piles that itch and burn and you are restless, thirsty and sensitive to heat - see Homeopathy. See the Homeopathic Kits for sets containing a range of different remedies.
Take one dose three to four times a day for up to three days and see if there has been any improvement. If there has continue with the remedy, if not change the remedy. For severe symptoms take every fifteen minutes, every half an hour or every one to two hours as required.
NB. It is important to touch the pills as little as possible, ideally tipping one into the lid and then directly into the mouth letting it dissolve under the tongue if possible and also to avoid eating and drinking at the same time as taking the remedy.
The stronger the symptoms the stronger the potency required, so if you are unsure, if any of these remedies are not working, or you feel you need a higher potency contact a professional homeopath.
NB. This information is in no way intended to be or imply to be a treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you are unsure as to the suitability of any of the products or recommendations with regard to your condition please consult your doctor. If your doctor does not approve of complementary medicine it may be helpful to find one who does.