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Someone close to me recently had bowel surgery.  I saw up close how the stomach works, or in this case, doesn’t work.   Through this experience, I learned why a healthy digestive system is so important.

Relieving constipation is one of the most common inquiries received by pharmacists.  More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for 2.5 million physician visits a year. Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults ages 65 and older. Pregnant women often suffer from constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.

Some nutrients, like iron and calcium supplements, can cause constipation. It is also a common side effect of many medications, particularly many pain medications.  Since pain meds are the #1 medication group in the U.S., many people are suffering from this complaint.   Regardless of the cause, those looking for relief can find some helpful tips below.

1.  Exercise regularly

Did you know that after bowel surgery the first treatment nurses administer is getting the patient to walk, walk, and walk some more?  Being in a vertical position allows gravity to help move food through the stomach and intestines.  Also, other abdominal muscles are moving and can assist in the movement of food through the bowel.  So whether you take a quick stroll through the park, play catch with your kids, or shake it in a Zumba class, you’re intestines will thank you for the help getting things moving.

2.  Drink more water

I know you’ve heard about drinking 8 glasses of water each day to keep your body hydrated.  Bodies that are adequately hydrated perform many functions better, including digestion.  I make it a priority to drink a minimum of 2 liters (that is eight 8 ounce glasses) of water each day.  It helps to buy a reusable bottle and have a loose schedule of when you refill it (i.e. as you leave the house in the morning, before your lunch break, when you pick the kids up, etc.)  It pushes you to finish those last few gulps since you know it’s nearly time to refill.  By the way, drinking this much water can help with weight maintenance and even weight loss. 

3.  Eat more fiber

We should all be eating foods that are high in fiber.  Nutritionists tell us to eat 11 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Why?  Because they are perfectly designed for your body to digest.  Foods that are easier to digest will move more quickly through the gut, making constipation another reason to limit the processed foods you eat.

4.  Supplement with Pro-biotics

Pro-biotics are an “essential” nutrient I take daily.  The bacteria in Pro-biotics help the natural bacteria in the stomach digest foods.  The bacteria “eat” the food in the stomach, allowing absorption of nutrients and furthering the breakdown process necessary to move food through the body.  

5.  Supplement with Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for your body, and one of its benefits is improved muscle contraction.  The lining of your intestines is actually a long muscle that performs a wave-like motion to push food down and out.  This wave-like action is enhanced by magnesium.  

6.  Supplement with Digestive Enzymes

Your body uses digestive enzymes to break down fats, carbs, and proteins.  Without this breakdown process, your intestines have to work harder and longer to move the food through your gut.  The undigested food then has time to ferment, causing unwanted gas, bloating and constipation.   Patients struggling with gas, bloating and constipation are seeing some impressive results with our digestive enzymes formula.  Contact us if you would like to try for yourself.


7.  Take a Daily Stool Softener

I recommend Docusate Sodium 100 mg.  This is sold at nearly all pharmacies without a prescription.  It works by making sure you are doing the second tip (hydrating).  It helps increase the water content of the stool, making it easier to pass.  In order to benefit from taking a stool softener, you must be adequately hydrated.

And to clear up some common confusion: Stool softeners are not laxatives.  I do not recommend taking laxatives daily.  They work differently in the body and are best used in situations requiring a more aggressive level of treatment.  Laxatives can be addictive. (And no, I don’t mean you can get “high” on Ex-lax.)  Your body can become so accustomed to the help of the laxative that your bowels lose the ability to do what they are designed to do naturally.  Since laxatives will not prevent constipation or improve the health of your digestive system, they are not included in this list.

We want to provide you with the nutrients your body needs to do what it is supposed to do naturally.   It’s what we’re all about.  If you are suffering from chronic constipation and think you could benefit from any of the nutrients in this list, please contact us or come by to chat.

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