Ayurvedic medicine, enriched with oriental wisdom and millenniums of experience, argues that “health” is defined primarily by the emission of one to two formed stools daily and a maximum of three stools per day at most.
Alas, many people do not meet this definition because of loose stools, or even liquid stools. This is not our topic for today: many people fall into the other extreme; they “skip” days and do not reach the required seven stools weekly. Below five, one must be concerned, and then what is there to say about exceptional cases of only one or two bowel movements per week? Personally, I have even seen patients who have complained of a period of two weeks and even up to four weeks without a bowel movement!
This seems unbelievable but it is the sad reality, made even more distressing because constipation involves undeniable toxicity and serious health risks. In addition to the conventional mechanical complications (haemorrhoids and anal fissure), we can include gallstones and cancers with hormonal involvements such as colon cancer and breast cancer. We cannot therefore leave constipation untreated.
We should also respond to people who complain of hard stools, painful passing of stools, or alas, daily stools obtained through the regular use of laxatives. The latter, if they are of the drastic kind, such as from the senna plant, or chemical drugs, should be avoided like the plague. They will ultimately end up damaging the intestinal mucosa and create a lifetime dependency. Of course, the occasional intake of such laxatives doesn’t generate such complications.
The first tip is to hydrate thoroughly, but how can you judge this accurately? You should produce 1.5 to 2 litres of urine per 24 hours; this urine should be pale yellow – not dark or brown. It is also clear that exercise, or even just an active life, promotes intestinal transit: drinking and moving are essential!
Methods that provide a mechanical stimulus using natural products, as long as they have no irritant effect, constitute good strategies. For example, one or two tablespoons of flaxseeds (linseeds) or psyllium seeds (also called ispaghul) soaked overnight in a glass of water. The seeds absorb water and swell, forming a tasteless gelatinous mass. This is not unpleasant to swallow and works wonders for intestinal transit.
If those don’t work I am also in favour of a few natural remedies. Magnesium ascorbate in powder form can solve difficult cases with the advantage of not adding the acidity of the classic vitamin C, which is nothing else than ascorbic acid. However one must be careful not to overdose otherwise the opposite symptoms can occur or at the very least cramps and bloating. Usually a few grams daily will suffice, sometimes less, with a tendency towards spontaneous improvement and dose reduction. Most magnesium salts give the same kind of benefits. One can easily combine vitamin C powder in the morning (tonic) and the magnesium at night (relaxing) to completely resolve the problem.
These products have the advantage of not inducing any toxicity because any excess will only result in exceeding the goal; loose stools. Probiotics and prebiotics are another means of treatment, which is remarkably effective, and I recommend trying different symbiotic mixtures designed for this specific purpose. Finally, I would be upset with myself if I did not mention that severe cases could be caused by mechanical obstructions or insufficiency of the thyroid gland, and need to be treated accordingly.