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Constipation- Nature’s call does not have to be too long

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st March 2009 03:00 AM

FOR Musa Kayongo, a long call (emptying the bowels) takes close to an hour. While in the toilet, he groans, screams and sheds tears as he waits.

FOR Musa Kayongo, a long call (emptying the bowels) takes close to an hour. While in the toilet, he groans, screams and sheds tears as he waits.

By Agnes Kyotalengerire

FOR Musa Kayongo, a long call (emptying the bowels) takes close to an hour. While in the toilet, he groans, screams and sheds tears as he waits.

Going for a long call gives Jacob Mugisa the opportunity to read a newspaper or a novel. “Emptying my bowels takes a long time. So while I sit on the toilet, I read my novel,” he says.

Dr. David Ssali, a naturopathy (natural medicine) expert with Dama Herbal Medicine, explains that this condition is termed as constipation.

He defines constipation as difficulty in defecation (passing stool) or infrequent passage of faeces. It is accompanied by painful expulsion of small amounts of hard faeces, cramps, gas, bloating and a reduction in defecation to less than three or four times a week.

He explains that opening up of bowels regularly is an important factor in maintaining good health, adding that under normal circumstances, within eight to 12 hours food should pass from the small intestines to the colon for final digestion and elimination.

Failure to do this clogs the colon (lower part of the bowels), causing constipation.

Causes of constipation
Food which is incompletely chewed is a major cause of constipation. “When these large chunks of food reach the small intestine, they go undigested.

The food becomes toxic inside the colon, producing unhealthy bacteria that damage the colon wall causing bloating and gas,” explains Moses Ssenoga, a naturopathic doctor with Mukago Herbal in Bugolobi.

Constipation is also caused by eating processed, refined and starchy foods like cassava, maize flour, spaghetti and white bread.

Ssenogga says drinking while having meals is also a cause of constipation. The fluids dilute the digestive juices, making the breakdown of food difficult.

Drinking while eating also encourages gulping down big food chunks that end up undigested, causing a clogged colon.
The other cause is ignoring to respond to the call of nature.

Inactivity or lack of physical exercise, especially for the bed- ridden and the elderly is another cause as are illnesses like malaria which paralyse the intestines and tumours in the colon which block the passage of stool causing constipation, says Mugarura. He advises that avoiding constipation is essential to enjoying good health.

Effects of chronic constipation
Dr. Herbert Mugarura of Middle East Clinic, Bugolobi, notes that although some people consider it normal to have one bowel movement a day or none, this is harmful to ones health.

Mugarura explains that this slow movement causes the faeces to rot and produce poisonous substances (toxins). The toxins are absorbed into the blood, resulting in intoxication of the body.

“The longer the toxic materials sit in the large intestines, the longer they are in contact with the lining of the gut wall. The toxins absorb the mucus membranes and the lining peels off forming wounds in the rectum (tube through which faeces are passed out),” he explains.

In addition, chronic constipation causes the colon to sag. It can also force the colon against organs like the bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes or the prostate causing problems with urination.

Mugarura says chronic constipation also leads to piling up of faeces causing enlargement of the colon. Constant strain on the rectum during defecation leads to swelling of veins and and bleeding of the anus.

Prevention
According to Ssali, food that works best for the body is wholesome and natural. It is important that you consume a healthier diet that contains many fibre-rich foods including whole grains like whole wheat bread, millet and brown rice.

A diet consisting mainly of fresh fruits like apples, peaches, berries and oranges is good. In addition, green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium, a mineral that helps the muscles of the intestines to contract and help with bowel movements.

Ssali advises that at least 50% of the diet should consist of raw foods and that fruits be eaten with all their pulp and skin.
He notes that most people who suffer from constipation habitually drink too little water.

On a daily basis, one should consume at least eight glasses of water. It is also helpful to drink a glass of warm water in the morning.

Ssali explains that if the body is not properly hydrated, the large intestines extract water from the faeces. This dries them and makes them difficult to expel.

“Avoiding constipation requires learning good toilet habits. It is important to respond to the call of nature when need arises because when the nerve impulse to evaluate is ignored too often, its function will diminish,” Ssali advises.

He says taking laxatives (substances that increase bowel movement) to combat the problem, creates dependency and worsens the problem.

Laxatives like enema only provide temporary relief for acute cases but not chronic constipation.

Performing physical exercise is another way to beat constipation because exercise stimulates the intestines.

Food needs to be chewed in small and soft pieces because the enzymes and acid in the stomach have only a short time to break it down before it goes in the small intestine.

Constipation- Nature’s call does not have to be too long

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