Ask The Herb Lady

With Cathy Burkemper

Natural Approach to Help Relieve Constipation

Q: It seems the older I get, the slower my bowels move. Should I be concerned about constipation?

A: Yes, you should be concerned. Constipation is a serious problem in our society. Do you know that a lot of people believe that regularity means having a bowel movement once a week or once every three days? This is not healthy. Bowel movements at least once a day is normal. If you do not eliminate on a “regular” basis, the waste ends up putrefying in your body, which can lead to gas, bloating, indigestion and other more serious problems. Most people end up reaching for a laxative, which they become dependent upon, only leading to more problems.

The natural approach would be to increase dietary fiber, exercise and drink plenty of water. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains is very important. Just by following these suggestions, you can make a big change in your bowel habits.

Another way to increase fiber is with psyllium hulls. The hulls have a remarkable ability to absorb water many times their own weight, which makes them swell. This exerts a gentle pressure on intestinal walls, stimulating them to contract normally. However, psyllium must be used with plenty of water, and it should not be used if someone has a bowel obstruction.

If you feel you still need to take a laxative, try an herbal one containing one or more of the following herbs: cascara sagrada, turkey rhubarb, dandelion root, or burdock. Senna is also a great laxative, however, you only want to use this on occasion, as it can become habit-forming. Cascara Sagrada is probably the most popular natural laxative because of its mild nature and the fact that it is non habit-forming. It is even gentle enough for small children and the elderly.
Please see your health care professional if chronic constipation persists.

This herb information is for health education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the services of licensed health practitioners. Consult with a physician for any condition that requires professional care.

Do you have questions about herbs or vitamins? Send them to Cathy Burkemper, CNHP and Certified Herbalist. Write to: Herbs & More, 16021 Manchester Rd., Ellisville, MO 63011.

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