The function of the large bowel (large intestine) is twofold: partly it is a holding area for faecal matter awaiting elimination. The second main function is to absorb minerals from any fluid contained within the waste matter. This means your bowels are constantly reabsorbing waste and if faecal matter is not promptly eliminated, toxins may also be taken in.
Very often, long-term constipation is much to do with habit. It is possible to re-educate your bowels though - follow the plan outlined below.
1. Be regular in your lifestyle – the body likes regularity in all things: meal times, sleeping, waking, exercising… especially important is regularity in your time of going to the loo. Choose a time most convenient to you and stick to it. Allow yourself a good 15-20 minutes (you might like to take a book!) and go to the loo. It may be that you don’t manage to empty your bowels the first few times, but stick to it and it will come! As the body automatically gets tired at your regular bedtime, so will your body learn this is the time to go to the loo.
2. Put your feet up on the bin. Put your bin in front of the loo when you’re sitting on it and put your feet up on the bin with your knees bent. This effectively puts you in a squatting position, which means you have gravity on your side, so passing a stool is much easier. And rather than being bent, your colon is straight, so the passage of the stool is easier.
3. Increase fibre. This is really important, as the urge to go to the loo comes from ‘stretch receptors’ within the bowel which register it is full and send the relevant signal to the brain. You then feel this impulse as the urge to defecate. NEVER IGNORE THIS URGE WHEN YOU GET IT. Increasing fibre will help regular elimination. Good sources include brown rice, all fruit (fresh and dried) and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oats (porridge is great) and flaxseeds (also called linseeds). Flaxseeds may be taken in addition to increasing your dietary fibre: put 1 tbs flaxseeds in a tumbler and fill with water. Soak overnight. Stir and drink in the morning.
This process generally takes about a month, although it will be different for each individual.
Don’t worry if you have a small setback occasionally after you have retrained yourself – just reintroduce the flaxseeds for a few days and things should return to normal.
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