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Constipation is a common condition in the very young and the more mature. It’s most often a problem for infants, toddlers, and persons over the age of 55.

Fortunately, constipation remedies are simple, effective, and often free. What are the most common constipation remedies?

Your most important constipation remedies may be the medications you don’t take.

Ask your doctor about alternatives to prescriptions that may be causing you to suffer chronic constipation. Constipating medications include codeine or hydrocodone painkillers (such as Vicodin), antacids that contain aluminum, many antidepressants, all iron supplements, and some drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and bipolar disorder.

If you don’t take any of these medications, the next most important of the constipation remedies is to make sure you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Dry stools are constipating. Increasing the amount of water you drink is more important than any other change to your diet.

Fiber, however, also helps.

Fiber from fruits and vegetables is always more beneficial than fiber from supplements That’s because plant foods provide fiber in small doses. There’s enough fiber in fruits and vegetables to contribute to regularity but not so much fiber as to create its own blockages in your colon.

When using fiber-based constipation remedies, always start with the smallest possible dose. Build up to taking enough fiber to increase regularity. Slowly increasing your dosage of fiber supplements helps you avoid problems with bloating and gas.

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber mixed with water forms a gel. Insoluble fiber does not.

Soluble fiber slows down the digestive process. It combines with and keeps fats and sugars from being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Insoluble fiber speeds up the digestive process. It flushes toxins out of the digestive tract. It may or may not keep fats and sugars from being absorbed through the large intestine.

Soluble fiber is found in barley, beans and peas, apples and oranges, carrots, flaxseed, oatmeal and oat bran, and psyllium (the fiber source used in Metamucil).

Insoluble fiber is found in peels and skins of fruits and vegetables, corn bran, flaxseed, vegetables such as green beans and cauliflower, and whole-wheat products.

Among natural constipation remedies, soluble fiber relieves constipation slowly. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, relieves constipation quickly. Both kinds of fiber are beneficial, and you should take both in moderation.

Fiber doesn’t always help constipation, particularly if you have had a neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease for a long time. If these nerves controlling the passage of digested food and waste products through the lower digestive tract have been damaged, adding to the amount of waste products that have to be moved won’t help. For persons with these conditions, the issue of insufficient peristalsis must be addressed with prescription drugs.

Prunes contain fiber, but fiber isn’t what makes them among the most effective constipation remedies. Prunes and prune juice contain sorbitol and other sugars that are only slowly absorbed into the bloodstream.

While these sugars sit in the intestine, they draw water into the central cavity. The additional water softens the stool.

The common herbal remedies for constipation aloe bitters, cascara sagrada, buckthorn, frangula, rhubarb, and the most familiar, senna act as the heavy artillery of natural constipation remedies by alternately stimulating and paralyzing nerves that serve the colon.

Once chemicals in these herbs have been converted to their active forms by friendly bacteria, they stimulate the muscles that push stool downward and relax the muscles that hold stool in place. Stimulant laxatives made from herbs don’t work if the colon does not host Lactobacillus and related microorganisms. They aren’t a good idea if you’re taking antibiotics.

The effect of any stimulant laxative, herbal or synthetic, diminishes with use. Don’t use any stimulant laxative for more than 2 weeks at a time. Avoid using fiber and stimulant laxatives at the same time.

Other constipation remedies are things you do.

Exercise can help or it might not. If you don’t exercise at all, exercising even as little as walking around the block is one of the most effective constipation remedies. If you already exercise, however, more exercise probably won’t increase your regularity.

Experts advise that one of the best constipation remedies is to set aside a regular time, every day, to attempt to evacuate your bowels. For most people, the best time to try to have a bowel movement is immediately after breakfast. Sit on the commode for at least 10 minutes every day, whether your bowels move or not.

Eventually, your body will attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to evacuate the bowel, if you are taking other steps to maintain bowel health.

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