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Constipation causes more trouble than you think

Look to fibre and vitamin C to help relieve constipation, says health expert.
Look for natural remedies to relieve constipation, says health expert. Photo supplied.

Now and again, friends confide in friends that they have big problems. Dreaded are the occasions when the problem is a serious medical diagnosis. But when the problem is persistent constipation, it’s better to air the issue and not suffer in silence.

Drug store remedies for constipation can fail to have effect. For many sufferers, the ailment involves days without a bowel movement. Ignoring the problem can lead to disturbing complications, to be avoided at all costs.

Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, believed we are all living with sub-optimal levels of vitamin C. Another factor is a lack of dietary fibre, which holds onto water and sets the stage for constipation. Fibre will change bowel movements from hard rocks to stools as soft as toothpaste. When on a high-fibre diet, if you look in the toilet bowl, you’ll see stools that float. 

 A component of our natural physiology called the gastrocolic reflex helps to prevent constipation. A high fibre cereal with fruit and a hot tea or coffee stimulates nerves in the stomach to trigger a bowel movement.

The great concern with constipation is the possibility of fecal impaction, when a bowel movement becomes impossible. This demands a visit to the hospital emergency room. The solution is an enema and sometimes manual removal of the impacted feces.  

Chronic intestinal pressure may cause small hernias to appear in the large bowel. These bowel out-pockets are referred to as diverticulosis and may be present for years without people knowing.

For the unlucky, diverticulosis can change to diverticulitis when small particles of food become stuck in one of the hernias. This can cause mild pain and inflammation, usually cured by antibiotics. Or it can be worse and trigger a severe inflammatory reaction causing acute pain and a life-threatening situation requiring an emergency operation and removal of the inflamed bowel.

 Vitamin C cannot injure the intestines. It also decreases the risk of overall disease and has a positive effect on cardiovascular problems. Moreover, you cannot overdose with C. It’s a win, win situation.

Some worry about kidney stones. The majority of renal stones occur in alkaline urine. But since vitamin C acidifies urine, there’s less chance of this happening.

Linus Pauling took 20,000 mg of C daily for years. We take 4,000 mg and 10,000 mg respectively of C daily – and one of us is nearing 100.

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