What is constipation?
Between your mouth and your anus, the food you eat passes through about nine metres of gut. A lot can go wrong during that journey.
According to the 1996 National Health Interview Survey, there are as many as 4.7 million people in the United States, and about 1 million people in the United Kingdom, who are suffering from constipation at any given time; 1 in every 60 people.
That's millions of people who are in constant pain or discomfort whenever they go to the toilet; millions of people who feel like they are slowly moving small boulders through their intestines.
The time it takes for food to pass through our body varies between person to person, but it's usually between 24-60 hours. Common constipation is where food waste hangs around for longer, perhaps days, or in chronic cases, weeks, even years! You're still taking food in, but it isn't coming out as much or as frequently as it should; the waste keeps building, getting heavier and heavier, and fermenting, which causes bloating and foul smelling gas. Not surprisingly, you feel worse and worse.
Just think what happens when your sink waste disposal unit gets clogged up!
The longer the faeces stay in the colon, the more water is absorbed from them and the harder they become. This increases the risk of faecal toxins passing into the blood stream, which can adversely affect your metabolism and the rest of your body. In addition, the other organs of detoxification (liver, lungs, kidneys, skin and lymphatics) have to work harder and if they get overloaded, this eventually this can lead to more serious conditions like allergies, arthritis, hormonal imbalances—even cancer!
Time for a reality check
You're probably wondering if you really have constipation; whether all this really applies to you. I suspect you wouldn't be reading this report unless you knew something was up. But let's have a quick reality check anyway.
Take a look at the following Bristol stool chart (developed at the University of Bristol). Types 3 and 4 are the "ideal stools" especially the latter, as they are the easiest to pass, and types 5–7 indicate diarrhoea. If you've got types 1 or 2 then you are tending towards constipation.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you pass faeces only once or twice a week?
- Do you have to strain when you pass faeces (more than 1 in 4 times)?
- Do you feel that the bowel evacuation is incomplete (more than 1 in 4 times)?
- Do you feel pain during the process?
- Have your bowel movements changed recently?
- Do you have haemorrhoids (small painful, itchy bumps on your anus that bleed)?
- Do you feel stomach ache and cramps?
- Do you feel bloated and nauseous?
- Have you recently lost your appetite?
If you have answered 'yes' to two or more of these questions and you're passing pellets or unusually large, lumpy, sausage shapes, then it is likely that you do have constipation.
Want to learn about the causes of constipation?
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