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Student Health Services


Constipation is a term which describes an abnormal infrequency of defecation, or abnormal dryness of the stools. And oh, can it be aggravating and uncomfortable.

By far the most common type of constipation is on a functional (you cause it yourself) rather than organic basis. Many people, particularly busy college students, develop a habit of constipation because of the habit of delaying each bowel movement as long as possible. This causes your lower intestine to become insensitive to the presence of a needed evacuation (bowel movement). Consequently, it requires increasingly more stimulation to produce the necessary peristaltic rush (wave like movement of intestinal muscle) for bowel evacuation. If allowed to continue, constipation can cause permanent bowel problems late in life such as hemorrhoids or piles.

So, now that you know all of these facts and are concerned about your problem, here are some things you can do to correct constipation.

Action 1:

Eat more than one meal a day, preferably three. These could be three moderately sized meals or 4-5 small meals and snacks.

Reason: Your intestinal track is stimulated by the presence of food being digested. One meal a day provides little stimulation in addition to probably not being very nutritional.

Action 2:

Adequate roughage in your diet. This means fresh greens, fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread and cereals. Try a variety of roughage. What works for one person may not work for another.

Reason: Stimulates peristalsis (wave like motion of intestinal muscles) by adding bulk to the intestinal content.

Action 3:

4 - 8 glasses of water a day over and above other liquids taken. Many people feel this is impossible. However, if you drink a half glass an hour during the day you've got it made. Think of it this way: A few minutes at the water fountain between each class will do it.

Reason: The whole body, including individual cells, organs, and blood, needs adequate fluid to function. The fluid in the intestine acts to prevent stools from becoming dry and hard.

Action 4:

Select a set time every day to sit down for 15 to 20 minutes and concentrate on having a bowel movement. Perhaps upon rising or before going to bed.

Reason: Yep, that's right - concentrate. Have you ever heard of "the power of suggestion" and "conditioning your body to function properly?" Well, that is what you are doing. If you have had poor bowel habits in the past it takes time to retrain your system. Be patient, it may take awhile also very important to make sure the cause is under control and the anemia has been corrected.

Action 5:

Drink a glass of prune juice or eat 4-8 prunes a day, hot coffee, tea or lemon water 1/2 hour before your daily sitting session.

Reason: To begin with, you may need some natural stimulants to get things going. Those named above are excellent natural laxatives.

Action 6:

Do not take oral laxatives, use rectal suppositories or enemas unless prescribed specifically for you by your doctor.

Reason: Your body can quickly become dependent on this artificial and often harsh stimulations.

Action 7:

Don't ever fight or ignore the urge to go. Go!

It takes time to break bad habits and initiate new healthier ones. So don't despair! Just hang in there, be constantly aware, and you'll fare well.