Everyone jokes about constipation, but it's no joke if you're the one suffering from it. And "suffering" is the right word for it! It's a miserable feeling. You may feel bloated, sluggish, and often you'll have a low-grade headache. But perhaps we can make that feeling no more than a memory.
Constipation is, simply put, an inability to move your bowels. The body is designed so that waste products will move quickly through the system, and out of the body. Although several things can be the cause of it, the root cause is a lack of moisture in your digestive system, and water is the primary cure for that.
The best way to deal with constipation is to prevent it. And a regular system of getting water into your body is the best way to practice prevention.
Most conventional medical advice is that there is no "normal" routine for the human body to have bowel movements. Some will tell you with a straight face that "for some people" it's normal to have a bowel movement every 3 or 4 days.
And while I agree that our systems will vary widely in their "normality" it is not normal to go for days without a bowel movement. Your body is taking in food several times a day. It just makes sense that your body will also need to get rid of waste products at least once a day.
There's no need to become greatly concerned if you go a day without a bowel movement. But if skipping days becomes a routine, you might want to step up your prevention program -- especially if you start feeling lousy.
Prevention starts off in the morning. During the night, your body has been fasting -- on an involuntary basis! Unless you are in the habit of eating a midnight snack, your body will often have gone without food for 7 or 8 or more hours.
During that time, your digestive system has been resting -- like the rest of your body. And you should give it the chance to rest! If you've ever eaten a large meal, and then quickly gone to bed, you know it's not a recipe for a good night's sleep. Most people sleep poorly and restlessly after a large meal, because the digestive system's having to do a lot of work. And digestion is hard work.
When you awaken in the morning, immediately drink 2 to 3 glasses of lukewarm tap water. This is not the time to have ice water. You don't want to slow your body down, and that's what cold does. If you don't like the taste of your tap water first thing in the morning, you might try adding something to perk it up -- a twist of lemon is a good water pick-me-up.
After drinking your water, do not sit down. Remain standing. This is the time to read the newspaper, empty the dishwasher, or whatever. Just remain in an upright, standing position. You see, chairs are not the optimal position for the human body. All of your digestive organs get scrunched together. Until a few hundred years ago, chairs were not common, and people traditionally stood or squatted in most situations. Now, I don't think I'm going to get you to give up your chairs, but at least for the first 30 minutes of so of the day, pretend you don't have a chair, and give your body a chance to work without being scrunched up.
After 15 minutes, drink another 2 or 3 glasses of water. Your body will be working to get the digestive system kicking back in. A side benefit is that you will find yourself waking up much faster than you have in the past. Part of the grogginess most of us feel is simply a side-effect of dehydration.
For most people, your bowels will move after the second couple of glasses of water. If they haven't, don't worry about it ... it will happen later in the day as you continue drinking water. Remember, aim for drinking 20 glasses of water every day. As you get into that regular habit, you will find that constipation will take care of itself.
Jim Huffman, RN specializes in natural and alternative healing therapies. His first book is 'Dare to Be Free: How to Get Control of Your Time, Your Life, and Your Nursing Career,' and is aimed at helping other nurses find satisfying, dynamic careers. His website is http://www.NetworkForNurses.com and his health blog is at http://www.shababa.blogspot.com