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The Best Ways to Stay Regular
Written By : Mark Rosenberg, MD 
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One of the most common concerns my patients have is how to stay regular. Although it rarely indicates a major health concern, constipation can cause discomfort, bloating and lack of energy. When you feel uncomfortable, it's not easy to focus on work, family and other important activities. Many people think harsh laxatives are the only answer to the problem, but that is not the case. Fortunately, there are natural treatments and easy ways to stay regular that don't require prescription drugs or cause annoying side effects.

Curing Constipation

If you have gone longer than two to three days without a bowel movement, there is a good chance you are suffering from constipation. Your first thought may be to pick up a laxative at the drug store, but these medicines can cause cramps, diarrhea or dehydration. To cure constipation naturally, you can turn to herbs and other natural remedies that have been used for centuries to gently restore balance to the body.

To tackle clogged bowels, psyllium husk is a highly effective option. Derived from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant, this grainy substance is sold in natural food stores. Follow the directions on the package or simply stir a spoonful into a glass of juice and drink up.

Psyllium is often mixed with sweeteners and other artificial ingredients to make products like Metamucil and Fiber Con. Natural psyllium has no additives and is less expensive. You can drink psyllium up to three times per day to fight constipation and once a day to maintain regularity.

Ayurvedic medicine, which is popular in India, encompasses some natural cures for constipation. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend senna, an herb that encourages easier bowel movements. Licorice root has similar properties to senna, and the two may be used together. Coriander leaves, often used in Indian cooking, are another trusted remedy that helps balance the digestive system.

Hot liquids may encourage bowel movements, so teas and tonics are a good choice. Dandelion tea has many health properties and is thought to relieve constipation. You should be able to purchase dandelion tea bags in health food stores. Honey is a centuries-old home remedy for a variety of ailments, including constipation. Mix a tablespoon with hot water and sip after meals.

Natural Prevention

Even people with healthy digestive systems occasionally fall prey to constipation. Stress, travel or a change in eating habits may be to blame. Taking preventative steps can keep your body functioning smoothly, even when life gets hectic.

You've probably heard about the importance of fiber, especially as it relates to preventing constipation. Fiber is the natural bulk in whole grains, vegetables and fruit that is indigestible to the body. Fiber attaches to the stool and helps it move easily and quickly through the digestive track.

The surest way to get adequate fiber in your daily diet is to load up at breakfast. Look for cereals with at least 5 grams per serving. Eat whole grain or sprouted grain breads, English muffins or pitas. Breads should have at least 3 grams of fiber per slice. Add a piece of fiber-rich fruit, like pears, apricots, strawberries, apples, dried prunes or dates, peaches or pineapple.

Other high fiber foods that anyone can fit into their diet are beans, which can go into salads, burritos, soups or grain dishes; nuts, which are filling and packed with antioxidants; and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Ground flax is another superfood you can trust to keep you regular. Sprinkle it on yogurt, cereal, salads, grain dishes or soups. If you are too busy to change your diet, natural supplements can help. Look for those containing flax and probiotics, the good bacteria that keep your digestive track healthy.

The more high fiber, unprocessed foods and supplements you consume, the happier your digestive system will be. In case constipation does take you by surprise, look to natural cures that have been used for many years to restore balance and comfort. Constipation is an unfortunate condition most people have to deal with, but remember that you can choose to manage it naturally.

Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging

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