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How can we promote good bowel health

by Tina Y. Gerber-McCurley

Most of us are familiar with the physical transformation which aging brings. Our skin loses its elasticity, the gums recede, we grow hair in the most unlikely places, and precious inches of height start to disappear. Don't ask.

Working as a personal support worker, I know about age-related structural changes in the large intestine, which can result in more constipation for older adults. Other factors include lack of exercise, low-fibre diets, and individuals not drinking enough fluids. Medication can also be a contributing factor.

I once cared for a sweet little lady that would constantly sit on the toilet after her daily bran muffin. I have seen many strange rituals when working in Long Term Care. A fact which surprised me was that the average person uses the toilet 2500 times a year.

What you put on your plate can either promote or prevent regular bowel movements. The benefits of fibre help with better digestion and bowel function, so when you're not getting enough fibre, you may find yourself constipated. A lower-fibre diet consisting of meat and dairy will probably back up you're functioning.

My mother would say three meals a day, three bowel movements a day. When she lived in a Nursing Home, my sister and I always knew when she was constipated, as she wouldn't eat, period. There is no mistaking constipation, pain and cramps. But abdominal pains aren't the only side effect of constipation. The combination of abdominal discomfort and bloating can sap your energy. Chronic constipation can also raise the risk of urinary incontinence. Straining to poop or pushing too long can weaken your pelvic muscles. The best natural remedy for constipation is to pile your plate with fibre-rich food, like fruits and vegetables. I may suggest the high sorbitol content in dried fruits, such as prunes, figs and dates, as they act as a natural laxative. Which would also include flaxseed and fresh fruit like pears and apples.

It is typical for hunger to take a back seat when you're constipated. Having trouble occasionally isn't a big deal, so upping your fibre and water intake or taking an over-the-counter laxative may be of benefit.

Contact your doctor if home remedies aren't enough. Constipation is an emergency when alarming symptoms like weight loss, blood in your stool, anemia, or you experience persistent bloating. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical help. It is important to maintain good bowel health, as almost 70 percent of the body's immune system is contained within the digestive tract. Healthy food choices are exactly that - a choice. The secret to making healthy food choices is to add prayer to receive God's help.

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