Monday, September 7, 2015
Constipation - I'm all plugged up
Our bodies need water for most of our daily functions. This includes our bowel movements. If there isn’t enough moisture inside the body the bowels are one of the last areas to receive its share. In the nursing home crowds incontinence is a common problem. Many of these folks begin avoiding water in the hope of avoiding accidents. When they do drink something it is typically something with more flavor than plain water. Yet, plain water is what the body craves for hydration.
Fiber is the parts of plants that are hard for the body to digest. It is also harder for the person to chew. This can lead to many of our nursing home residents to avoid high fiber foods. They opt instead for the lower fiber processed foods. This causes there to be less bulk in the stool, that in turn makes them harder to pass.
Lack of exercise
One of the things that move our bowels is the movement of our bodies. Nursing homes are designed to make people comfortable, not necessarily healthier. They don’t encourage their residents to do any more movement than they want to do. The more you sit, the more the fecal matter within your bowel sits as well. The more it sits the more dried out it gets and the harder it is to move it.
For many people too much dairy products can have a constipating effect. Many of our processed foods or comfort foods have a dairy element to them. This can make an already serious problem even worse.
Resisting the urge to go
In a nursing home when someone needs help getting to the bathroom that help isn’t always readily available. Rather than messing themselves people have a tendency to try to avoid that bowel movement until help arrives. This causes the fecal matter to sit in the bowel longer, losing its moisture.
Over use of laxatives
Even when the staff at the home tries to help by giving laxatives this can make the problem worse. Just like rebound headaches when you are dependent on over the counter headache remedies there is such a thing as rebound constipation. The body becomes dependent on the laxatives and won’t release the fecal matter without it.
Many people are in nursing homes because they suffer from debilitating neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s, MS, or other diseases. These diseases rob the mind and body of control of not only thoughts, but body functions as well.
Many medications have a constipating effect. The very definition of a nursing home supposes the person needs medical care and is thus on medications. This can range from such simple things as antacids to pain medications, antidepressants and something as simple as an iron supplement.
Considering the multiple medications most nursing home residents are on it would be a miracle if they were not constipated.
Many people think of depression as a mood problem, but many times it affects the whole body. When people are depressed they don’t eat right, move around, or care if they need to go to the bathroom or not.
Why is this a major problem we need to be concerned about? If you look at each of the causes above you will see that they aren’t confined to nursing homes. Every person on earth could be impacted by one or more of them. Instead of holding a bowel movement because you need help to get to the bathroom the busy executive could be holding it because he can’t get out of the meeting he is in. Every single one of them could be extrapolated to the general public. The rates of constipation in the general public are reaching epidemic proportions.
Constipation causes many serious problems. It isn’t just an uncomfortable inconvenience. The problems range from causing bloating, cramps, and a feeling of incomplete elimination to fecal impaction (which is when hardened stool gets stuck in your intestines) and even to colon cancer. In between there are hemorrhoids, anal fissures (tears in the skin in your anus) and even rectal prolapse (where part of your intestine protrudes from your anus).
Beyond these extreme problems someone with constipation is just generally less healthy than someone without this problem. This is because the longer the fecal matter is inside your body the more likely it is for you to absorb toxins that your body is trying to eliminate. It is also a breeding ground for parasites and harmful bacteria, such as candida.
What to do?
Beyond the obvious of avoiding the problems listed above there are many things you can do for yourself or a loved one with this problem.
• Eat fermented foods. The good bacteria in them help move matters along.
• Eat your vegetables, cruciferous and green leafy.
• Get some good fats, such as coconut oil or olive oil. These help lubricate the bowels.
• Supplement with aloe or slippery elm. Both help your body produce the mucus that helps move things along. Be cautious with aloe, it can cause cramping and diarrhea.
• Supplement with magnesium. Oral magnesium supplements can also cause cramping and diarrhea, but topical magnesium supplements do not, and are still effective.
• Avoid stimulating laxatives such as mineral oil or castor oil. Although they work they tend to set you up for a rebound effect.
• Drink some ginger tea. This is a natural mild laxative and stimulant. It also has a healing effect on the stomach and bowels.
• Eat mucilaginous foods such as okra and chia seeds. They act along the same lines as supplementing with slippery elm.
• The most important thing you can do is to stay hydrated with pure, clean water.