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Nobody wants to talk about it, but regular elimination is a health concern for many of us. Almost everyone struggles with it at some time or another. Constipation is so common in the elderly that almost 50 per cent experience it.

Nobody wants to talk about it, but regular elimination is a health concern for many of us. Almost everyone struggles with it at some time or another. Constipation is so common in the elderly that almost 50 per cent experience it.

A change in diet or lack of exercise can naturally cause irregularity, but sudden, prolonged constipation means a visit to your physician to determine the cause, as it can be a sign of colon disease.

Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements - less than one per day - and difficulty passing stool. Typically with constipation, the stool is hard and dry and difficult to pass, and may be accompanied by bloating and discomfort. Symptoms of chronic constipation can include pain, headaches, nausea, and malaise.

Three categories of laxatives can be used to relieve constipation: bulking, stimulant, and hyper-osmotic agents.

Bulk Up With Fibre

Fibre falls under the category of bulking agents. It is certainly important to include fibre in your diet for many health benefits, but fibre in a supplement form is not always a cure for constipation. For some people, fibre can be drying and rather than relieve constipation, it may contribute to it.

Stimulate the System

Stimulant laxatives, such as Senna (Cassia angustifolia), typically produce the desired effect of elimination by irritating the colon and forcing peristalsis. Although effective, they are not without side-effects: herbal products such as Senna can be overstimulating and cause cramping, urgency, and intestinal discomfort. When herbal laxatives are taken regularly, the body is at risk of developing a dependence on them. The colon loses the ability to stimulate peristalsis on it own, and when the laxative is withdrawn, the colon becomes sluggish and constipated.

Use Active Magnesium

Hyper-osmotics are the most "natural" category of laxatives, in terms of their mechanism of action. Active magnesia, for example, draws water into the colon, and when full, the colon senses pressure and naturally responds by eliminating. This is the exact mechanism by which the colon functions when in a healthy state. Because hyper-osmotic laxatives mimic healthy colon function and stimulate elimination, as a response to a "full" sensation, there is little risk of developing a dependency.

Different types of magnesium work in different ways. Magnesium citrate is well absorbed, therefore has a poor laxative effect, and standard magnesium oxide is comprised of tiny particles. Active magnesium, on the other hand, is comprised of compact "beads," which have greater surface area than standard magnesium oxide and therefore are able to absorb a larger quantity of water.

Loosen up Your Lifestyle

A diet high in processed foods will slow colon activity, but high fibre whole foods, such as prunes, whole grains, apples, and fresh vegetables provide pectin and cellulose, improving
peristalsis.

Drinking at least eight glasses a day of water is critical to regularity, as dehydration dries the stool and makes elimination difficult. If you exercise intensely, more than eight glasses are necessary.

Regular elimination is essential not only to colon health, but also overall health and vitality.

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