Constipation involves infrequent or sluggish action of the bowels.  Sometimes the stools are dry, hard, compacted and difficult to pass; but often they appear quite normal.  Surprisingly, diarrhea can also be a symptom of constipation.  Sometimes the stools become so severely compacted that the only waste that can make its way through is liquid.

Many people are constipated and don’t know it.  Try the beet test.  Eat some beets and see how long it takes to pass the deep red stain in the stools.  If it is 24 hours or less, then the bowels are “regular”.  If the red colour takes more than one day to pass, then there is some degree of constipation present.  If it takes three days or longer, then constipation is a serious threat to health.

During constipation, some of the cellulose in food is broken down by bacterial action into volatile fatty acids.  The growth of bacteria increases in the colon and begins to move upward into the small intestine, where food is fermented more and digested less, causing more gas to be produced.  Putrefaction in the colon can produce dangerous substances that generate free radicals and that have been implicated as causative factors in cancer and heart disease.  Constipated people are also at higher risk for appendicitis, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.

Constipation often indicates that the body lacks sufficient fibre, sufficient water, or both.  Step One:  Drink at least two litres/quarts of purified water daily.  Step Two:  Increase dietary fibre – by consuming generous amounts of vegetables, 100% whole grains, seeds, nuts and fruits.  For good measure, also include regular exercise.  Simply walking for 20 minutes each day may be enough to relieve or prevent constipation for those with sedentary lifestyles.

If the above steps are not enough to establish regularity within a few days, an herbal laxative may be needed to gently cleanse and stimulate the colon.  Once the acute constipation problem has been relieved, the next step is to maintain regularity through diet.  Constipation disturbs intestinal bacteria, so it is a good idea to help normalize these microflora by taking a probiotic, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.

For stubborn, long-standing cases of constipation, more needs to happen.  Often the colon becomes sluggish because earlier links in the digestive chain are weak.  If the stomach does not produce enough hydrochloric acid, then the gall bladder and pancreas do not get the signals they need to secrete enough bile and digestive enzymes.  Bile is a natural laxative.  Such weaknesses can be corrected by taking a digestive enzyme supplement that contains both betaine hydrochloride and bile.  This type of supplementation is essential for anyone who has had a gall bladder removed.

In spite of all of the above measures, there are still some cases that do not respond until the thyroid gland is supported.  A sluggish thyroid makes everything else in the body sluggish, including the colon.

See also the chapter, “It Begins with Digestion”, in NUTRITIONAL SOLUTIONS FOR 88 CONDITIONS:

Example of digestive enzyme formula:

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