Jun 19 2009

Fiber, prune juice, stool softeners, laxatives, exercise for constipation

Following on my issues about constipation.  I remember a colleague called in the maintenance man because the toilet was plugged up and she couldn’t unplug it.  He joked about the women in the office and suggested they added fiber to their diet.  She countered with, “But that would make it worse!”

Strange isn’t it that they recommend fiber for constipation?  There are reasons for it, but sometimes it seems counter-intuitive.  I guess it really depends on what the constipation problem is.  If someone produces large, hard stools, but has a hard time passing it, fiber might not be a good option.  Fiber bulks up stool and helps the bowels move.  However, if you already have bulky stools, you wouldn’t want to bulk it up some more.  If you have small, hard stools, fiber might help.

If stools are hard, some use stool softeners.  They are not laxatives in themselves, but because they sometimes soften stools too much, some people complain they get diarrhea.  Perhaps, the best suggestion for some of these people may be to drink more water.  Or even juices.  Some people feel apple or grape juice can induce diarrhea.  But, the one juice most people associate with bowel movements is prune juice.  Prune juice is probably ideal because it contains fiber and liquid. However, it does not work for everyone, either.  Of course, nothing is ever 100% guaranteed to work.  I’ve tried prune juice and sometimes, it can cause cramping when it takes effect.

I know lots of people who resort to over-the-counter laxatives.  Some people actually abuse them, because they wrongly assume they have constipation when it may not be.  Then, there are those anorexics who abuse them for the sole purpose of remaining thin.  However, you look at it, laxative abuse is dangerous.  For that matter, many doctors hate it when people use laxatives, especially when they don’t inform their doctors about their use.  It may interfere with other medications or cause other problems that may be misdiagnosed.

Regular exercise is also supposed to be good as it keeps the body fit and functioning properly.  Yet, how to gauge the effect of exercise is difficult.  I’m not a couch potato, but neither am I excessively active.  But, summer is here, so I should make a conscious effort to engage in real exercise every day.


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