It is estimated that up to 25% of the Western world has experienced constipation. The condition is not easily diagnosed though, as it is difficult to determine how often people should be opening their bowels. This means that doctors have to rely on other symptoms, such as bloating, a feeling of still needing to defecate, or excessive flatulence. Here at A.Vogel Talks Constipation, our digestive expert Ali Cullen describes the symptoms and causes of constipation and looks at how to treat the affliction using home and herbal remedies.
Constipation occurs when food moves too slowly through the digestive tract and as a consequence, stools become more solid and increasingly difficult to pass. It is one of the most common conditions affecting the digestive system.
In the developed world, up to 25% of people are said to suffer constipation symptoms, probably because of a more refined diet.
Most of us will know about or have experienced the symptom. However, defining constipation is not always easy. How often do you really need to move your bowels?
For the majority of people experiencing constipation, no specific cause can be found. However, a number of factors are known to contribute to constipation and for each individual, it is likely that a number of these will be involved.
The most common factors leading to constipation are:
Dietary - Not eating enough fruit, vegetables, wholegrain, pulses or other food groups rich in fibre
A change in personal circumstances, lifestyle or eating habits
If you suffer from constipation, first, take a look at your diet. Make sure that you have a daily intake of fruit, vegetables (aim for more than 5 per day) and other foods with high fibre content such as bran.
Certain fruit such as prunes (either whole or in juice), plums and kiwi fruit can be specifically helpful for some people suffering constipation.
In addition, regular exercise improves the way the digestive system works, so a daily 15 or 30 minute walk each day will do both your heart and bowels some good.
Make sure that you give yourself plenty of time in the toilet. Banish all thoughts of embarrassment, relax and give your bowel a chance to do its work. It is also helpful to do this at a fixed time each day – 15 minutes after breakfast works well for many.
If a change of diet and lifestyle are not sufficient to sort out your constipation, you might want to turn to laxatives as a temporary solution to kick-start the process, and then rely on your diet to prevent further episodes.
Herbal laxatives are amongst man’s oldest medicines and work in two ways:
Bulking agents. A good example is linseed which swells when in contact with water. This increases the bulk and volume of your stools, making them softer and easier to pass
Stimulating agents. The most commonly used are senna and frangula. This type of medicine stimulates the muscles in your bowel to contract, pushing stools further towards the exit
Ali's TOP TIP: Linoforce is a licensed herbal remedy containing linseed coated with senna and frangula. For best results, chew the granules well to release the active ingredients and take with plenty of water.
Join experts Eileen Durward and Ali Cullen in the beautiful A.Vogel garden as they talk all about digestion including their tips on how to improve your digestion and how bitter herbs can make a huge difference to helping your digestive problems.