Constipation needs to be taken seriously. I don’t want to scare you, but I want to scare you. So that you take it seriously. There are several important reasons. First of all, and one that I believe is one of the most important, is that fecal material carries toxins out of your body; constipation allows these toxins to sit in the colon and to be reabsorbed. This is never a good thing. In addition, constipation can lead to fecal impaction – especially in the elderly, it can cause anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and can cause or worsen unpleasant hemorrhoids. Also, chronic constipation increases your risk for diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and colon cancer.
Many people suffer with constipation. I found varying numbers statistically, but as a registered nurse, I come across the problem often. It can be quite distressing and uncomfortable.
There is some disagreement about the definition of constipation. Conventional medicine defines constipation as less than 3 bowel movements a week. This is definitely constipation in my mind. Or some say that they are constipated when their stools are hard and difficult to pass. I agree. However, I believe in most cases it is beneficial to have a bowel movement at least once daily and optimal if they are soft, but formed. If you do not, then you are at least mildly constipated.
Constipation can be caused by a variety of things such as not consuming enough water or enough fiber; taking opioid pain medications, anti-depressants, and other medications; lack of activity; traveling; and autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease, and lupus. Plus a sudden change in your diet; having an unhealthy gut microbiome (dysbiosis); iron supplements; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); diverticulitis; and even stress can cause sluggish bowels which lead to constipation. Constipation can also be plaguing after childbirth.
However, there is no need to suffer! There are natural solutions that can very reliably provide fairly quick relief, and I will address those in this post.
Magnesium Citrate Protocol
My go-to laxative is Magnesium Citrate. It works effectively, yet gently when taking the right dose. And is safe for those with normal kidney function. Magnesium is an important electrolyte that most of us are deficient in to one degree or another. Most people would do well to supplement with magnesium daily, somewhere around 200 milligrams (mgs) is what Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet suggest in their book, Perfect Health Diet. But I advise more as needed if you are troubled with constipation or sluggish bowels.
Suggested dose for constipation: Anywhere from 300-500 mg, or more. I like NOW brand which 3 capsules give 400 milligrams. This makes it easy to titrate. If you find this makes your stool too loose, take a little less the next time. If it did not work well enough, take a little more the next time.
Magnesium taken at night helps to produce a good bowel movement in the morning as well as a more restful sleep that night. It often alleviates restless leg syndrome, magnesium deficiency being one of the main causes.
By the way, does Milk of Magnesia sound familiar? Magnesium hydroxide is its main ingredient.
Prune Juice Protocol
Here is another favorite, tried and true, fix for constipation.
Warm 1 cup of prune juice in the microwave or on the stove. Drink it down fairly quickly so that it is still very warm. Then chase that down immediately with 1 cup of very warm water. Chances are good that this will produce a wonderful bowel movement within a few hours, or in the morning if this is done in the evening. If not, repeat this protocol. After a few more hours, you should get some gentle results. It is almost always successful.
When I worked in the hospital on the telemetry unit my nurse manager referred to me a number of times as the Constipation Queen. I took pride in that. What she meant by it was “kudos for being so good at helping your patients have a bowel movement”. When giving morning report to her we were always asked how many days has it been since each patient has had a bowel movement. If the answer was 3, more aggressive measures needed to be taken. I just followed what my nurse manager taught me to do as a new nurse and it worked remarkably well. Most of the time it involved the prune juice/warm water protocol, and sometimes in addition, a call to the doctor if stool softeners had not already been ordered and attempted.
Prunes also work well if that suits you better. Start with 5-6, accompanied by plenty of fluids.
My only issue with prune juice and prunes is that they are high in sugar, so this needs to be considered. This would not be a great solution for frequent problems, but in most cases, fine for the occasional problem.
I advise doing both the Magnesium Citrate and the Prune Juice Protocol for a particularly stubborn case of the no-go’s.
Things to Consider
for Normal Bowel Habits
Drink plenty of fluids
Eat plenty of fiber
Eat plenty of good fat
Get enough exercise, activity, movement
Reduce stress and better stress management
Use magnesium nightly
Make sure you don’t ignore the urge
Use a Squatty Potty
The most serious cause of constipation is bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency, and I advise you to seek medical help immediately. Signs of this, in addition to constipation, may be cramping abdominal pain, inability to pass gas, lack of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting, bad breath, and abdominal bloating.
Another consideration, the Jaminet’s advise against the use of senna as well as other over-the-counter laxatives, stating that “senna is a toxin, that can cause lasting damage, notably to nerves”.
As far as other pharmaceutical laxatives, I am not a big fan, due to their side effects and possible dependency and damaging effects. And since we have magnesium and prunes, why, unless there are no other options.
I was also advised by my naturopathic doctor many years ago to not use Smooth Move tea for constipation as she explained that it is “like dynamite to an inflamed intestine”.
Don’t let constipation keep you down.
When you have to go, heed the call. When you can’t go, mag and prunes are your arsenal. Keep them on hand!
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this post is not meant to take the place of advise given to you by your own health provider. Please get medical attention if you have any concerns or any alarming symptoms. This post expresses the authors opinion.