Life tends to get backed up. We get stuck in traffic, fall behind on e-mail, and fret over mounting paperwork, but the bowels are no place for a backup.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the
United States. About 4.5 million Americans report being constipated most
or all of the time.
Women, pregnant women, children, and adults age 65 and over most often
complain about difficulty eliminating, resulting in around two million
visits to the doctor annually.
While experts disagree on what defines constipation, Adina Niemerow, a
Sausalito-based holistic chef and author of "Super Cleanse: Detox Your
Body for Long-Lasting Health and Beauty" (HarperCollins) believes that a
bowel movement after each meal, that's up to three a day, is essential.
Surprised? It makes sense. After all, you'd be concerned if your dog
didn't poop for a week, wouldn't you?
So why do we have such trouble staying regular? Niemerow suggests that it's all in what we eat.
"Our bodies have a hard time digesting processed flours and refined
sugars, oils, and salts, so that food ends up clogging our intestines,
severely impairing our bodies' ability to efficiently absorb nutrients
and void waste," Niemerow says. "This toxic food weighs down the body in
So it's not surprising that Americans spend $725 million on laxatives
annually in an effort to try to 'unclog' our plumbing. Others turn to
stool softeners, stimulants, and bulk formers.
While increasing fiber intake from plant foods -- whole grains, beans,
vegetables, and fruit -- to 35 grams or more is critical for regularity,
some of us need more help.
Niemerow says that there are "several options out there to help you stay
regular." Doing an intestinal cleanse is a great first step.
She also suggests drinking plenty of water and taking your favorite
fiber supplement. Stool bulking agents like Benefibre, Metamucil,
Fiber-Sure, and FiberSMART are widely available and easy to incorporate.
Take caution, however. When introducing a fiber supplement, begin with
half the amount recommended on the label and increase your intake of
water; otherwise, you may experience a worsening in bloating and
For a more thorough scrub, Niemerow recommends periodically using an
intestinal cleansing formula, such as Cleanse Smart and Cleanse Move
from Renew Life or Swiss Kriss, all of which are available at local
health food stores.
"At bedtime, take a natural laxative such as magnesium oxide or drink a
laxative tea," Niemerow recommends. "Products containing pure aloe, aloe
leaf, slippery elm, flax seeds, marshmallow root, triphala, yellow
dock, and psyllium husks all help move the bowels."
For stubborn cases, Niemerow suggests a more immediate fix. "Go the
enema or colonic route. They're the quickest way to move the toxins out
of the body and they can also provide fast relief from detox symptoms,
such as headaches, throbbing joints, constipation, and body aches."
"You can find do-it-yourself formulas at your local health food store,
or go to a licensed colon hydrotherapist. Ask your physician or
naturopath for a referral if you don't know of a therapist in your
While these remedies are appropriate during a cleanse, Niemerow cautions
against becoming dependent on them to ensure regularity. "On an ongoing
basis, a balanced, healthy diet should be what you rely on to avoid
Previously published in the Chicago Tribune
My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.
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