RELIEVING CONSTIPATION – IF YOU REALLY HAVE IT
On a summer night in 1937, the boys in bunk six were getting ready for bed. Our horseplay stopped abruptly when the camp nurse entered, clipboard and pencil in hand. Muffled giggles punctuated the silence as she interrogated each of us in turn. “Hard, medium, soft, or none?” she asked. She wasn’t taking egg orders —she was checking our bowel movements. Anyone foolish enough to answer “hard” or “none” was rewarded with a dose of castor oil.
Although that barbaric ritual has gone the way of public hangings, the obsession with daily bowel movements and the rampant overuse of laxatives continue. Bombarded by ads linking empty bowels to a full life, Americans spend about $300 million a year on the more than 700 brands of over-the-counter laxatives. Much of that money is spent needlessly, because of tenacious misconceptions about constipation.
One myth is that waste products can contaminate the rest of the body if they’re not eliminated frequently. More than 60 percent of Americans believe that a daily bowel movement is necessary for good health. Actually, the frequency of bowel movements among healthy people varies greatly—from three a day to three a week. If you don’t feel bloated and you move your bowels without discomfort, you’re not constipated, no matter how infrequently you defecate.
When constipation does occur, it’s likely to strike older more than younger people and women more often than men. In some cases, it reflects an underlying medical problem: Constipation can be caused by hormonal disorders, such as an underactive thyroid gland; elevated blood levels of calcium; neurological injuries or disorders; or mechanical blockages of the bowel, such as hemorrhoids or tumors.
Usually, however, constipation is caused not by disease but by lifestyle and habits. The most common problem is too little fiber in the diet. Fiber absorbs water and swells in the bowel, creating bulkier stools, which stimulate the bowel contractions that push the stool along. People who are constipated should consume about 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Eat them sparingly, or they can cause “rebound” constipation when you give them up.
Inactivity can also contribute to constipation. Jogging, aerobics, and brisk walking are good ways to stimulate the bowel.
Bowel movements are not just something your body does; you have to pitch in, too, by heeding the urge to defecate. Rather than rushing to catch the train right after breakfast— when the urge to defecate is often strongest—try to set aside enough time to let nature take its course.
A host of common medications can be constipating. They range from iron or calcium supplements and aluminum antacids to prescription drugs, including antidepressants, antihistamines, antispasmodics, narcotics, tranquilizers, and heart drugs such as calcium-channel blockers, diuretics, and antiarrhythmic agents. If you became constipated soon after you started taking medication, ask your doctor if drugs could be the cause.
Although the cavalier use of castor oil has declined, the myth of the benign, “safe and gentle” laxative lives on. Used regularly, all methods of purging the bowel—enemas as well as laxatives—tend to weaken bowel function and cause dependence. Research suggests that about half the people who use laxatives regularly could regain normal bowel function by discontinuing those drugs. And all laxatives can have significant side effects. Laxatives should be avoided if possible or used only occasionally*
Temporary constipation may occur when travel or illness disrupts your normal habits, when there’s a change in your diet, or when you’re taking a short course of medication. The problem often resolves itself in a few days. If not, an enema or laxative can help. Your accustomed bowel function will generally return when you resume your normal routine.
If you’ve been constipated for more than two or three
weeks without apparent cause, consult your physician. After ruling out serious disorders, your doctor will help you design a program of dietary and other lifestyle changes. If that doesn’t work, an enema or laxative may be required.
D.O. VS. M.D.
Question: What’s the difference in training between an osteo-and a medical doctor?
Answer: Doctors of osteopathy (D.O.s) are similar to doctors of medicine (M.D.s) in training, licensing, and scope of practice. The major difference between them is philosophical. Osteopathic physicians place greater emphasis on the role of the musculoskeletal system in the healthy functioning of the human body. In addition to using conventional diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, they may use manipulation techniques to diagnose and treat medical problems.
Health handbook introducing you to read the article: EASING IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
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