Maintaining regularity can be a challenge at any age. Usually, constipation is caused by a diet lacking in adequate fiber although there can be many other reasons. Regularity is defined as having a bowel movement every day; anything less than that is called constipation. The FDA’s adequate intake (AIs) for fiber intake is as follows:

Adults ≤ 50 years
   Females 25 g/day
   Males 38 g/day
Adults ≥ 50 years
   Females 21 g/day
   Males 30 g/day

The average American consumes 12-18 grams of fiber per day, hence our epidemic of constipation. For reference, an apple has 4.4 grams of fiber, ½ cup of instant oatmeal has 2 grams of fiber, and ½ cup of pitted prunes has 6.2 grams of fiber. Fiber softens and adds bulk to stool, which decreases the passage time of the stool. Fiber is also necessary for the colonic bacteria to thrive in the colon; their job is to produce some of our vitamins and absorb nutrients from our food. A diet low in fiber can be a causative factor in many diseases.

There can be many other reasons why someone can become constipated: medications, dehydration, lack of physical activity, life changes, gluten sensitivity, magnesium deficiency, sluggish liver, thyroid problems, chronic diseases, food allergies, high carbohydrate diet, and GI disorders- all of which can be either contributors or causes of constipation. People often want a one word answer to improve regularity but there isn’t one when you consider all the reasons one could become constipated.

We all know that constipation is not good, so what to do about it? There are many natural solutions depending on the cause. Solutions range from increasing dietary fiber to supplemental fiber pills or drinks, among many others. The FDA has recommended 5-9 fruits and vegetables per day. That means minimally, a person should have two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day. This is the easiest solution to constipation for those who consume well below this number per day.

Probiotics, fiber supplements in capsules or powder, adequate hydration (half your weight in ounces), eating lots of fiber (35-50 grams per day), using bran (wheat) or oat bran, prunes, may all be helpful. Daily exercise, organic psyllium, aloe vera, and magnesium supplements are useful for some.

We don’t recommend over the counter laxatives because people can become addicted to them. There are some natural laxatives that are only recommended for temporary use, and those are senna, cassia, and cascara sagrada. If it’s not a simple fiber issue, the best thing is to have a work up completed by your local Naturopathic Physician. Give us a call TODAY!

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